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The Mortifications
by Derek Palacio


Overview - Derek Palacio's stunning, mythic novel marks the arrival of a fresh voice and a new chapter in the history of 21st century Cuban-American literature.

In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal Encarnacion--father, husband, political insurgent--refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland.  Read more...


 
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More About The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
 
 
 
Overview
Derek Palacio's stunning, mythic novel marks the arrival of a fresh voice and a new chapter in the history of 21st century Cuban-American literature.

In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal Encarnacion--father, husband, political insurgent--refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife Soledad takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life. But instead of settling with fellow Cuban immigrants in Miami's familiar heat, Soledad pushes further north into the stark, wintry landscape of Hartford, Connecticut. There, in the long shadow of their estranged patriarch, now just a distant memory, the exiled mother and her children begin a process of growth and transformation.

Each struggles and flourishes in their own way: Isabel, spiritually hungry and desperate for higher purpose, finds herself tethered to death and the dying in uncanny ways. Ulises is bookish and awkwardly tall, like his father, whose memory haunts and shapes the boy's thoughts and desires. Presiding over them both is Soledad. Once consumed by her love for her husband, she begins a tempestuous new relationship with a Dutch tobacco farmer. But just as the Encarnacions begin to cultivate their strange new way of life, Cuba calls them back. Uxbal is alive, and waiting.

Breathtaking, soulful, and profound, The Mortifications is an intoxicating family saga and a timely, urgent expression of longing for one's true homeland.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101905692
  • ISBN-10: 1101905697
  • Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
  • Publish Date: October 2016
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Political
Books > Fiction > Hispanic & Latino

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-07-04
  • Reviewer: Staff

At the heart of O’Henry-winner Palacio’s debut novel are the twins Ulises and Isabel Encarnacion. The twins’ mother, Soledad, has fled Cuba with her children during the Mariel boat-lift of 1980, leaving their rebel father, Uxbal, behind in rural Buey Arriba. The three exiles settle in Connecticut, where Soledad takes up with a Dutch horticulturist who grows Cuban tobacco, but she, like her children, cannot escape the past. All three family members are defined by their longing for something lost. Ulises, especially, longs for something indefinable, something he wonders if he ever had in the first place, and which he carries as a burden anyway. A twisted promise Uxbal asks Isabel to keep drives the girl deep into Catholic mysticism. She seeks sacrifice, choosing first one martyrdom and then another, until she goes missing. Ulises is a natural with the Dutchman’s soil, and he excels in Latin and the classics at school. He doesn’t remember much about home, but when Soledad falls victim to cancer and asks him to find Isabel, Ulises returns to Cuba. In fact, all the characters end up where they began—in Cuba—their journeys as mythic as geographic. Perhaps strongest of all in this winning debut are the scenes set in Cuba: these humid and colorful pages sing with empathy. The orphans, rebels, and old women he describes breathe with vital intensity. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A family in flux between Cuba and the U.S.

The Mortifications, Derek Palacio’s beautifully written debut novel, begins in 1980, during the Mariel boatlift that took refugees from Cuba to the United States. Soledad Encarnación packs her 12-year-old son, Ulises, and his twin sister, Isabel, onto an overcrowded lobster boat that carries them away from their village of Buey Arriba. Her husband, Uxbal, chooses to stay behind, but not without first trying to prevent his family’s departure by holding Isabel ransom.

In Connecticut, Soledad becomes a court stenographer and attracts the attention of lawyers who find her exotic. She falls in love with Henri Willems, a Dutch horticulturalist who grows Cuba’s Habano tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley.

At 17, Ulises, a budding Latin scholar, gets a job working in Henri’s fields. The more devout Isabel volunteers with the terminally ill at Jude the Apostle. Soon, she takes a vow of chastity and silence and leaves for Guatemala to establish a school funded by the church. And all of this is before Soledad’s diagnosis of breast cancer and a letter from Uxbal, who demands his family’s return to Cuba.

The Mortifications is a devastating portrait of the realities we construct for ourselves, the parts of our history we choose to embrace and those we yearn to escape. In deceptively simple prose, Palacio writes movingly of dreams and family legacies and reminds us that, no matter how far away you travel, some aspects of one’s ancestry are forever a part of you.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews