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 Encarnación—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 Encarnacións 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.
— The Millions – 2nd half of the 2016 book preview
— New York Times Book Review, 100 Notable Books of 2016
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio is a fascinating debut novel. This Cuban-American literature takes readers deep into the lives of immigrants. Human needs and wants are explored throughout the story. Home, faith, family and survival are just several themes readers can find. I found it enchanting. Derek Palacio has brilliantly created a Read that will shutter readers’ hearts everywhere. The novel provokes strong emotions and realistic attachments from readers to the characters. Each character presents his or her life to readers openly. The struggles are believable. I found that the title, The Mortifications was indeed a perfect name for this book. There were shameful moments…within the pages. However, this novel showed me the hardness the immigrants like the Cuban Americans faced while trying to create their new lives. It was a refreshing reading experience from what I usually read. The journey is worthy of reader’s attention. The Ecarnacions are a dysfunctional family that experience all the trials life brings and takes from us. Vibrant, entertaining, and bold. Overall, I recommend this writer’s novel to readers worldwide.