1:00pm | Derek Palacio | First Congregational Church

Derek Palacio’s 2016 debut novel The Mortifications was named A New York Times Best Book of 2016. This powerful novel explores how conflicting political ideals, culture clashes, spiritual crises, and divided passions challenge a Cuban-American family over multiple generations at the turn of the twenty-first century. Breathtaking, soulful, and profound, The Mortifications is an intoxicating family saga and a timely, urgent expression of longing for one’s true homeland. Palacio was born in Evanston, IL and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Ohio State University. His work has appeared in Puerto del Sol and The Kenyon Review. His short story “Sugarcane” appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013. He is the co-director, with wife, the novelist and former Midwest Literary Walk participant, 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.

“Some books are storms. Others are weather. Derek Palacio’s debut novel, The Mortifications, is very much the latter. It is hot sun and cool rain, morning fog and the hum of a fan in the window. It ranges and roams, this book. When it settles onto a moment, it does so with the weight of ten butterflies.” —NPR

NEW YORK TIMES BEST BOOK OF 2016, NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR’S CHOICE SELECTION

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.

Praise for The Mortifications:

“Extraordinary. . . . A powerful story. . . . Palacio unspools his characters’ lives with the type of omniscient authority befitting an epic. . . . The narrative may operate on a grand scale, but Palacio is just as gifted a miniaturist, able to distill the unbearable ruptures in a family down to a single image.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Some books are storms. Others are weather. Derek Palacio’s debut novel, The Mortifications, is very much the latter. It is hot sun and cool rain, morning fog and the hum of a fan in the window. It ranges and roams, this book. When it settles onto a moment, it does so with the weight of ten butterflies.” —NPR

“The Mortifications is fascinated with bodies—especially the physical manifestations of emotions. . . . The novel doesn’t seem to want to sublimate the ugly, the putrid, or the decayed; it’s aware that describing abject bodily realities, in fiction, can in a sense turn them into objects of beauty.” —Bookforum

“Palacio writes vividly, conjuring smells and tastes of life both in the frozen north and the tropical Caribbean, from the sweat of a nun, for whom expensive soap might prompt ‘inclinations toward vanity’ to the flavor of tobacco and tomatoes.” —The Boston Globe

“A sweeping, lyrical tale of a family’s undoing. . . . Palacio’s prose contains moments of beauty and magic that are a pleasure to the ear.” —Dallas Morning News

 

 

 

2017-02-18T10:35:15+00:00