Ernesto and Elena Vega arrive in Mexico City where Ernesto works on a construction site until he is discovered by a local lucha libre trainer. At a time when luchadores—Mexican wrestlers donning flamboyant masks and capes—were treated as daredevils or rockstars, Ernesto finds fame as El Rey Coyote, rapidly gaining name recognition across Mexico. Years later, in East Los Angeles Freddy Vega is struggling to save his father’s gym while Freddy’s own son Julian is searching for professional and romantic fulfillment as a Mexican American gay man refusing to be defined by stereotypes. The once larger-than-life Ernesto Vega is now dying, leading Freddy and Julian to find their own passions and discover what really happened back in Mexico. Told from alternating perspectives, Ernesto takes you from the ranches of Michoacán to the makeshift colonias and crowded sports arenas of Mexico City. Freddy describes life in the suburban streets of 1980s Los Angeles and the community their family built as Julian descends deep into the culture of hook-up apps, lucha burlesque shows, and the dark underbelly of West Hollywood. The Sons of El Rey is an intimate portrait of a family wading against time and legacy, yet always choosing the fight.
the sons of el rey
Alex Espinoza's extraordinary new novel unveils a complex world of men thwarting destiny, or getting yoked by it. In language as unsparing as the characters he depicts, The Sons of El Rey is about herculean endurance in the ring, on the streets, at work, in bed, everywhere. It's a rare look at the suffocations and thrills of toxic masculinity told with bravura, tenderness, and great beauty.
—Cristina García, author of Vanishing Maps
In all of his novels, Alex Espinoza writes with singular grace, humor and deep empathy for his characters who journey between Mexico and California to make new lives, to ache for the past even while tasting the future on their tongues. In The Sons of El Rey, he's given us a powerful sweep of three generations of dreamers, from rural Mexico to the streets of southern California, through the story of lucha libre as legend, historia and tradition. This family is unforgettable, in the hands of a writer who knows the perfect details of their longing and loyalties to each other.
—Susan Straight, National Book Award Finalist & author of Mecca
A triumph that’s gripping to the end! This moving tale set in the world of lucha libre unfolds across time, geography and gender, as voices both living and in the spirit world gather around the deathbed of Ernesto Vega, a luchador who fought under the name El Rey Coyote.
—Janet Fitch, Bestselling author of White Oleander & The Revolution of Marina M
Espinoza has written an epic and transporting novel that follows one family but tells the story of many. This braided epic brims with heart, intelligence, and humor. It's also sexy as hell. The lives of the Vega dynasty twist, turn, and ultimately interlock in a manner that expertly mirrors the grappling bodies of the luchadores depicted here.
—Alejandro Varela, National Book Award finalist and author of The Town of Babylon
This warm, engaging, and endearing jaunt through the world of lucha libre joyfully grapples and body-slams its way across borders and decades. The Sons of El Rey is classic Alex Espinoza: a smart and smooth novel that pulls you into its big, rich, and human world.
—Héctor Tobar, author of Our Migrant Souls and the NYT-bestselling Deep Down Dark
The Sons of El Rey has costume and swagger and performance—fantastically so—but beneath that, it’s a novel about being a mortal, complicated being in a world less generous even than the Lucha Libre arena. Alex Espinoza has written a story that feels both compact and epic about the many lives we live in the secret cloak of our own skin.
—Ramona Ausubel, author of The Last Animal
Before the glam drama of drag queens, there existed the flamboyant reign of kings like El Rey, an underdog transformed into a superhero. This is the story of a lucha libre dynasty that battles with ghosts and regrets, heroes and humiliations. It is as much the chronicle of a dying Mexican patriarch as it is about his gay grandson, both hiding behind stoic masks. Ultimately, it is a tale about that country called desire.
—Sandra Cisneros, Bestselling author of The House on Mango Street
The Sons of El Rey pinned me to the mat with its compelling and moving tale of a multigenerational luchador dynasty. Espinoza delivers a deceptively profound unmasking of the human heart.
—Antoine Wilson, author of Mouth to Mouth
The Sons of El Rey included on the Today Show's list, "42 books we can't wait to read in 2024."