In Chris McCormick's heartrending debut novel, The Gimmicks, two Armenian cousins who grew up as close as brothers leave their homeland and the people they love to fight for a cause that has haunted their lives since birth. Ruben, clever and ruthless, and Avo, hulking and sensitive, join an underground liberation group that wants revenge for the 1915 Armenian genocide. While Ruben is sent off on increasingly violent and mysterious international missions, Avo is sent to the U.S., where he starts a career in professional wrestling and spends years trying to work his way back to Mina, the love he left behind. Years in the future, Mina goes to the U.S. There, she meets with Avo's wrestling manager, attempts to find Avo and pieces together the puzzle of what really happened to him and Ruben.
With enormous scope and heart, The Gimmicks captures the lives of three people through a series of snapshots in time. Such an accomplishment is a feat of precise plotting and patient pacing. Surprising moments of humor and tender insights into the three main characters carry the plot forward, but the ultimate payoff for this sprawling tale is in its poignant ending. Despite being spread across time and space, enduring years of betrayal, love and loss, Ruben, Avo and Mina find a spiritual conclusion, if not a physical one, that honors the hardships they've endured. Even though the protagonists have, over the course of the book, crafted personae meant to disguise and protect their true selves, by the novel's end, readers feel as though they've had a genuine glimpse into the souls of all three characters. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor