Monday, January 6, 2020

Books: "The Gimmicks" By Chris McCormick

The Gimmicks
By Chris McCormick
Harper; hardcover, 354 pages; $27.99; available Tuesday, January 7

The United States Congress recently gave long-overdue recognition and denunciation of the Armenian Genocide brings an urgency and a powerful resonance to Chris McCormick's debut novel, The Gimmicks, a story of history and violence denied.

Set in the final years of the Cold War, under the shameful pall of Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide, McCormick follows two cousins from their home in Soviet Armenia to Southern California, and into the worlds of militant extremism and professional wrestling.

These are contrasting worlds, as the former struggles to expose a violence that is real and denied, while the latter practices a violence that is publicly performed and popularly praised.

Ruben Petrosian is a solitary, awkward young man who lives for backgammon and a commitment to unmask the truth of "the shattering." Avo, his cousin, is an orphan, gregarious and physically enormous, known for his distinctive unibrow. Avo is beloved, while people avoid Ruben, and to continue their contrasts, Avo is joyous, while Ruben is dangerously consumed. 

The cousins secretly love the same young woman and they share an unbreakable brotherly bond - until they no longer do. Ruben goes on a path that takes him even deeper into the world of political extremism, while Avo hides in plain sight as professional wrestler "The Brow Beater," managed by a rundown, tortured wrestling veteran named Terry "Angel Hair" Krill, and he ends up facing devastating consequences. 

The Gimmicks, a heartrending exploration of personal and national identity, is filled with surprising humor and beautiful storytelling, a deep reckoning with the generations-long aftershocks of history and injustice, and denied violence's brutal legacy.

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