This item is a preorder. Kayfabe will be released summer 2024.

At twenty-six, Dom Contreras has already spent a decade jobbing through the minor leagues of professional wrestling as Hack Barlow, a three-hundred-pound axe-swinging lumberjack. As his body breaks down and his star power fades, he must invent a new gimmick before he loses the only job he’s ever known. Meanwhile, Dom’s seventeen-year-old sister Pilar is eager to make her own pro wrestling debut. Dom is determined to keep Pilar under his wing, away from the predators of a business infamous for eating its young. At the same time, he has a vision for her meteoric rise to the top—not just of his own outfit, the middling Mid-Coast Championship Wrestling promotion outside of Charlotte, but all the way to stardom (and a big payday) in the WWE. The siblings are close, spending much of their time packed into Dom’s ancient Honda Civic en route to shows across the South, but as Dom craves privacy and Pilar reckons with her brother’s conflicting roles of roommate, father figure, manager, and coach, their relationship quickly begins to fray.

After Dom loses his temper in a match and Pilar injures herself preparing for her big tryout, Bonnie Blue, the eccentric owner of MCCW, spots an opportunity. She is poised, after years of scheming, to unveil her life’s handiwork: an underground, guerrilla-style pro wrestling network with bouts climaxing in real, premeditated injury. To save his career—and his sister’s hopes of breaking out—Dom must become Bonnie’s new star and take on the one persona he swore he’d never embrace.

Chris Koslowski’s debut novel is a window into life on the fringes of a uniquely brutal American pastime and an intelligent, self-aware commentary on modern identity, artifice, and violence. With whip-smart humor and biting insight, Kayfabe challenges readers to consider the truths that fakery can expose, exploring the boundaries of sport, spectacle, entertainment, and exploitation, and centering a strange family seeking connection in an even stranger world.

Praise for Kayfabe

“[A] brisk and punchy debut. […] it’s a winner.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This is a love letter to showmanship with enough high stakes, insider trivia, and personal struggle to make it enormously readable. An unexpectedly tender ode to passing one’s prime while also finding new joys in fostering next generation talent.”

Kayfabe is a wonderfully immersive and ethnographically rich debut. Koslowski’s approach to professional wrestlers and wrestling is not satirical but attentive, earnest, engaged. This is a terrific novel about American sport, American work.”
—Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special and Dayswork

“Chris Koslowski’s Kayfabe lands with the force of a clothesline from the top turnbuckle. This is a novel that takes wrestling seriously, in all the best ways. Koslowski has reconfigured the great American office novel to fit the grunt employee whose cubicle is a brightly lit mat inside a ring, and who comes home from the job not figuratively but literally battered. A fast-paced, smart, quick-moving book, and a fabulous debut.”
—Michael Griffith, author of The Speaking Stone and Trophy

Kayfabe is a powerbomb of a novel, leaving lucky readers no choice but to submit to its punchy comic rhythm, balletically precise prose, and the scabrous yet sensitive insight of a broken but unbowed veteran of the squared circle. In this irreverent and profound tale, Koslowski unearths the seedy underbelly of professional wrestling, exposing the all too human complexities of its larger-than-life characters. But Kayfabe is not just a novel about wrestling—it’s a novel that wrestles with the great questions of our age: Where does performance end and reality begin? How much should an artist sacrifice for their art? When is the right time to confess your fetish for carnivorous plants to that special someone? Whether a diehard fan, wrestling agnostic, or a skeptic already exhausted by the belabored metaphors of this very blurb, from the first page to the bloody finish you will never want to tap out of this champion-caliber novel. ”
—Luke Geddes, author of Heart of Junk and I Am A Magical Teenage Princess

“Robert Siegel’s The Wrestler meets Chris Bachelder’s Bear v. Shark in Chris Koslowski’s disarming portrait of a vicious profession that either “eats you, or…spits you out.” Crack the book for the wrestling; stay for Dom and Pilar’s poignant brother-sister relationship. As these sibs exorcise their demons and reorganize each other’s dreams, Kayfabe wrecks the reader, again and again, in painfully entertaining ways. This novel is a folding chair to the back of the head.”
—David James Poissant, author of Lake Life and The Heaven of Animals

Kafaybe is the great American wrestling novel I didn’t know I needed. Much more than that, it’s a fabulously entertaining story about the roles we take, the lines we cross, and the sacrifices we sometimes rise to.”
—Elise Blackwell, author of Hunger and The Lower Quarter

“In Kayfabe, Chris Koslowski writes from a professional wrestler’s point of view, ‘We understand the world we live in and what people want. We make a plan. We execute as safely as possible.’ In so doing, Koslowski captures the practicalities of a business deceptively less concerned with biceps and brawls than engaging an audience and trying to make it home OK. Kayfabe explores the liminal spaces between violence and showmanship, family bonds and commitment to a craft, and tradition versus the pressure to evolve that an Internet-charged world constantly imposes on us all. Yes, this is a book about wrestling, but much more so, it’s a profound meditation on what it means, has meant, and always will mean to be human.”
—Michael Chin, author of Stories Wrestling Can Tell and The Long Way Home

“Many hats off to Chris Koslowski, who in Kayfabe manages what I thought was impossible: he describes the dance of professional wrestling with nimble yet gut-punching grace. I’ve never seen the complicated moves of the ring—the choreography between fighters, but also the messy politics that undergird every match—examined with such a keen eye.”
—Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League