Luchador, by Erin Finnegan
Publisher: Interlude Press
Release Date: November 3, 2016
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Each week, Gabriel Romero’s drive to Sunday mass takes him past “El Ángel,” the golden statue at the heart of Mexico City that haunts his memories and inspires his future. Spurred by the memory of his parents, Gabriel is drawn to the secretive world of lucha libre, where wrestling, performance art and big business collide.
Under the conflicting mentorships of one of lucha libre’s famed gay exótico wrestlers and an ambitious young luchador whose star is on the rise, Gabriel must choose between traditions which ground him but may limit his future, and the lure of sex and success that may compromise his independence. Surrounded by a makeshift family of wrestlers, Gabriel charts a course to balance ambition, sexuality and faith to find the future that may have been destined for him since childhood.
From the author of “Sotto Voce,” a coming of age story about finding your identity behind a mask.
Sports (Mexican Wrestling)
Luchador was a thrilling and thought-provoking read. This will sound silly (and doesn’t even begin to factor into why I enjoyed this book so much), but it totally transported me back to my youth when I used to watch WWF and WWE. Granted, there are many differences between the Mexican and American leagues, but the battle between good versus evil being played out in tights and masks are pretty familiar territory to me.
Apart from being a wonderful tale of self-discovery, the book is an unapologetic love letter to the sport of Mexican wrestling. Through young Gabriel and a larger-than-life cast of characters, Luchador explores the role of exóticos – male wrestlers in drag –and pushes the boundaries of their traditionally campy, often effeminate roles within lucha libre.
Right from the beginning, I empathized with young Gabriel, whose loving parents died tragically as they tried to carve out a new life for their son in America. He’s taken in by his aunt and uncle back in Mexico City and he grows up wanting for nothing. Years later, spurred by memories of his parents, he eventually gives in to the lure of lucha libre and finds himself juggling university classes and a rigorous training schedule under the tutelage of premier exótico, the enigmatic La Rosa.
I loved the behind-the-scenes look into the nudge-nudge, wink-wink tactics and the business end of the sport. But I especially appreciated the internal conflict that Gabriel was faced with as he thought about his future – not just the push-and-pull of the age-old themes of good versus evil, light versus dark, and traditional versus modern, in the industry – but also what it would mean to be a gay luchador.
Another aspect I really liked was the supporting characters throughout the book, many of whom were part of the business. Despite the every-changing costumes, makeup and even stage names, I was able to get a good grasp of their stories and their personalities. I was also a big fan of Gabriel’s slow-burning romance with American college athlete Jason, who is the brother of one of Gabriel’s closest wrestling buddies.
The book was well-written and well-researched. The author not only succeeded in bringing the characters and the sport to life, but also the city itself – to the point where I now really want to visit Mexico City, and not just to take in a match. The book also came with a glossary of commonly used terms in Mexican wrestling, which proved to be helpful for the uninitiated like myself.
For the most part, I enjoyed the author’s frank, understated writing style. The only time her no-frills tone didn’t work for me was during some of the action scenes in the ring, which were well depicted but somewhat lacking in excitement or urgency. That being said, the final bout (of course there’s a big final bout, it’s a book about wrestling) was simply thrilling, and the book ended on the perfect note. A highly recommended read!
Her first novel, Sotto Voce, was published by Interlude Press in 2014 and received a PW star and a Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year award. Luchador, her second novel, will be published November 3, 2016.
You can purchase Luchador at:
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.