The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
A Novel

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They are not saved or redeemed by loss, by love, or by faith. They are, however, bound to something greater than themselves through tragedy, and it’s in the depiction of that glorious tragedy, and all the love and devotion that come with it, that Palacio’s novel becomes more than just epic. It becomes extraordinary.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Derek Palacio

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Derek Palacio received his MFA in Creative Writing from the Ohio State University. His short story “Sugarcane” appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013, and his novella How to Shake the Other Man was published by Nouvella Books in the same year. He is the co-director, with Claire Vaye Watkins, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada. He lives and teaches in Ann Arbor, MI, and is a faculty member of the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA program.
Author Residence: Ann Arbor, MI
 
Published October 4, 2016 by Tim Duggan Books. 320 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Mortifications
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Jason Sheehan on Oct 06 2016

The moments here (strung closer together than anything else in the book, a nearly day-to-day accounting) have a magic lingering in them only previously felt in Willems's tobacco fields.

Read Full Review of The Mortifications: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dinaw Mengestu on Nov 06 2016

They are not saved or redeemed by loss, by love, or by faith. They are, however, bound to something greater than themselves through tragedy, and it’s in the depiction of that glorious tragedy, and all the love and devotion that come with it, that Palacio’s novel becomes more than just epic. It becomes extraordinary.

Read Full Review of The Mortifications: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Jason Sheehan on Oct 06 2016

Palacio's Cuba is almost unreal — every hill, every flower, every young soldier and aging rebel existing like a dream which, eventually, draws home the entire Encarnación family and refuses to ever let them go.

Read Full Review of The Mortifications: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

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69%

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