Chang and Eng were the original Siamese twins. Born conjoined in Siam in 1811, they went on to become a household word. God’s Fool is the story of these two men, told in the first person by Chang. He tells us of their hard childhood in Siam, and how as babies they were almost killed by superstitious palace officials. Chang tells us how they lost most of their family to a cholera epidemic when they were eight, and how they made a living for themselves afterwards. But life was unkind to them in their younger years, and they were forced to abandon all they knew and leave Siam for Europe at the age of seventeen. They became a drawing room curiosity in the courts of Europe. Later, they were discovered by P.T. Barnum and brought to the United States, where they became rich and famous.
Slouka tells a fascinating story of two men destined to be tossed about by fate. There is a subtle longing in both Chang and Eng to be normal, to be free of one another which bursts through to the surface only once in a while. When fate isn’t being cruel, men are, men who take advantage of young, foreign, naive boys. But the most interesting thing that happens to them is how they become Americans, taking the name Bunker and marrying sisters. They manage to take all of their earnings from their years with P.T. Barnum and build a life for themselves, one as close to normal as they could possibly come.
Mark Slouka’s writing style is easy and lyrical. However, the first part of the book, which takes place just before the Civil War, is rather confusing. Slouka writes in a vignette style, which tries to create an atmosphere rather than tell a story. It is not until he takes the reader back to Siam and the twins’ birth that we start to see the fascinating and exotic story that is the life of Chang and Eng Bunker.