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The Mortifications (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Derek Palacio’s The Mortifications is a swirling, transformative novel, possessing a narrative ground that shifts under my feet with every step I take further into the story. I love a novel that can make five years pass by in a few pages, that can make me taste both the sweetness of a tomato and the grunge of unwashed skin in the same paragraph, that transplants ghosts into tobacco leaves. That, in other words, reveals the magic and chaos of good fiction, and which, in turn, becomes the perfect vehicle to describe what is indescribable. Trauma, like the people it touches, is impossible to pin down, as is parenthood, religion, love, and death. It is lucky for us, then, that Palacio leans into this world of unknowable and uncontrollable forces like a translator who can convey even what is lost in translation.

— From Lillian


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 Encarnaci n--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 Encarnaci ns 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 the Author

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. He lives and teaches in Ann Arbor, MI, is the co-director, with Claire Vaye Watkins, of the Mojave School, and serves as a faculty member of the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA program. From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101905715
ISBN-10: 1101905719
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Pages: 320
Language: English