The Mortifications by Derek Palacio begins in 1980 in Cuba when the Encarnacion family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Soledad, wife of political insurgent Uxbal who refuses to leave his homeland, forcibly takes their two young twins, Ulises and Isabel, across the water in a boat to the United States. Rather than settle in Miami with other Cuban immigrants, Soledad moves them all the way up to Hartford, Connecticut where they begin their new lives. Soledad gets a job as a court clerk and enters into a relationship with Henri, a Dutch tobacco farmer. Ulises becomes a scholar of Latin texts and Isabel begins a more religious-centered life.
Throughout the story, we realize that immigrating to another country and culture, though, does not mean that you forget where you came from. Even though they are living in Hartford, their memories of Uxbal and life in Cuba stay with them and shape the direction of their lives. Through a sequence of events, their hearts are drawn back to Cuba where Uxbal still lives.
I love how cover of this book depicts so clearly the separation of this family as each of them tries to find his/her place in the world. The first half of this book was really slow for me, but once I started feeling the internal conflicts of these characters I was swept up in their story. By the time I reached the end I found that I was really connected to the characters and the story as a whole. Since my husband is an immigrant and since I’ve spent quite a bit of time living overseas, I understand how we carry our homelands with us wherever we go…our land, our cultures, our families. We don’t forget. Our homelands shape us and are always with us. Our families, too, shape us even when we are separated by miles. Our connections to our parents, our children and our siblings are always there and sometimes finding peace within ourselves means learning to accept and understand all of those family members. The Encarnacion family represents all of these struggles.
I think this might be the type of book that grows on you more and more after you finish reading it. Palacio’s writing is beautiful and thoughtful and I keep thinking about the story and the characters. This is his first novel and I’m hoping he writes more. You can find more information about the book here, and you can read more about the author here. Happy reading!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.