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The Gimmicks is a gorgeous epic that astounds with its scope and beauty. With empathy and humor, McCormick unravels the ties between brotherhood and betrayal, love and abandonment, and the fictions we create to live with the pain of the past. This novel will blow you away. -Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers Set in the waning years of the Cold War, a stunning debut novel about a trio of young Armenians that moves from the Soviet Union, across Europe, to Southern California, and at its center, one of the most tragic cataclysms in twentieth-century history-the Armenian Genocide-whose traumatic reverberations will have unexpected consequences on all three lives. This exuberant, wholly original novel begins in Kirovakan, Armenia, in 1971. Ruben Petrosian is a serious, solitary young man who cares about two things: mastering the game of backgammon to beat his archrival, Mina, and studying the history of his ancestors. Ruben grieves the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, a crime still denied by the descendants of its perpetrators, and dreams of vengeance. When his orphaned cousin, Avo, comes to live with his family, Ruben's life is transformed. Gregarious and physically enormous, with a distinct unibrow that becomes his signature, Avo is instantly beloved. He is everything Ruben is not, yet the two form a bond they swear never to break. But their paths diverge when Ruben vanishes-drafted into an extremist group that will stop at nothing to make Turkey acknowledge the genocide. Unmoored by Ruben's disappearance, Avo and Mina grow close in his absence. But fate brings the cousins together once more, when Ruben secretly contacts Avo, convincing him to leave Mina and join the extremists-a choice that will dramatically alter the course of their lives. Left to unravel the threads of this story is Terry Angel Hair Krill, a veteran of both the US Navy and the funhouse world of professional wrestling, whose life intersects with Avo, Ruben, and Mina's in surprising and devastating ways. Told through alternating perspectives, The Gimmicks is a masterpiece of storytelling. Chris McCormick brilliantly illuminates the impact of history and injustice on ordinary lives and challenges us to confront the spectacle of violence and the specter of its aftermath.
In the tradition of startling debuts such as We, the Animals by Justin Torres, Desert Boys follows the life of Daley Kushner, growing up, coming out, and grappling with the remnants of his childhood in California's Mojave Desert. This series of powerful, linked stories illuminates Daley's world - the family, friends, and community that have both formed and constrained him, and his new life in San Francisco. Back home, the desert preys on those who cannot conform: an alfalfa farmer on the outskirts of town; two young girls whose curiosity leads to danger; a black politician who once served as his school's Confederate mascot; Daley's mother, an immigrant from Armenia; and Daley himself, introspective and queer. Meanwhile, in another desert on the other side of the world, war threatens to fracture Daley's most meaningful - and most fraught - connection to home, his friendship with Robert Karinger. Both a bildungsroman and a portrait of a changing place, Desert Boys traces the development of towns into cities, of boys into men, and the terrain between the desire to escape and the hunger to belong.