Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: The Charlatan's Boy Day Two

As I noted in yesterday's post, the driving force behind Grady's story is his search for belonging and identity. Ignorant of or indifferent to Grady's needs, Floyd allows Grady to drift and assume whatever identity is advantageous to Floyd's schemes. During the Feechie-act, Grady identifies himself as a Feechie; later he takes on the persona of a phrenologist's assistant; at the worst of times, Grady is merely a useful sidekick, someone to share the work. More than once, Grady wonders if Floyd might be his father, but Floyd never acknowledges him as a son. Remarking on why he keeps Grady around, Floyd says, "'I reckon I'm too tenter-hearted for my own good. But I hope you'll make yourself useful'" (p. 43).

So why does Grady not leave Floyd and strike off on his own? Following the demise of the ugly boy routine, Floyd tells Grady that he's not a Feechie, just a very ugly boy that his mother did not want, and that his loss in the ugly contest proves it. No civilizer boy could beat a Feechie for ugliness, at least according to common wisdom. Grady considers leaving, but decides against it.

Truth is, I forgave Floyd because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't have another person in the world but Floyd, and it hurt to have him disappointed in me.... It's a dangerous business, seeking the good opinion of a feller as unscrupulous as Floyd, but I kept after it (p. 42).

Later that day, the pair enter the town of Little Reedy and go to Short Fronie's public house, where Floyd hopes to win some money at cards. (Rogers populates the story with evocative and humorous names for people and places.) Floyd picks Ten-Finger Walter--a struggling phrenologist who is not very good at phrenology or cards--as his mark. While Floyd plays, Grady sits at the bar, telling Short Fronie about his troubles. Short Fronie is rough with the customers but has a tender heart for Grady and offers to let him stay with her. She's offering to become his mother. Grady has the opportunity of a lifetime thrust before him. He could become a villager and belong some place. Grady is overwhelmed and watches Floyd's card game as he tries to get his head around Fronie's offer. Floyd's game is going poorly, but Grady notices something about the way Ten-Finger eats his peanuts. During a break in the game, Grady tells Floyd what he has observed: when Ten-Finger has a good hand, he throws the shells on the floor, otherwise he puts them on the table. Armed with Grady's scouting report, Floyd makes short work of Ten-Finger, fleecing him for all his money and his phrenology equipment. Floyd tells Grady that he "saved the day." Grady tells Fronie he's sorry and then follows Floyd out the door.

Rogers presents a fascinating scene here that works on several levels. We move forward in the story from the ugly boy routine to phrenology. We see just how unscrupulous Floyd is. He has no qualms about pushing his advantage and taking everything from Ten-Finger. What's to stop him from doing the same to Grady? We're also left wondering why someone would not take the golden egg when it's presented to them. Are a few complimentary words from Floyd more valuable than a life of love and security with Fronie? Does Grady love Floyd as a parent? As Grady is well-aware, he has known no one else or any other life. Having proven himself useful, Grady is back in Floyd's good graces and opts to continue with the familiar, however unwise his choice appears.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Charlatan's Boy from the publisher.

To learn more about the Jonathan Rogers, visit his website at

To learn what the other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below:

Sally Apokedak
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner

Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

1 comment:

  1. Some excellent observations, Jeff. I hadn't thought how this scene really does foreshadow the critical end turning point.

    I have to admit, it troubled me that Grady went with Floyd instead of staying with Fronie. I thought at that time, Jonathan had build a strong case for him wanting a home. But as you describe it, I think of my own desire to continue with the known even when it is hard. It's sort of how we can love this world over heaven, simply because this is the known, which makes it feel more secure even though it's not.

    Thanks for these thoughts, Jeff.