“The Mortifications” by Derek Palacio
I read this because it was off my reading grid. I read this because it included characters coming from Cuba to the United States and I thought it might be interesting to see how they’d fare. “The Mortifications” isn’t a narrative that describes the struggles and challenges which immigrants face when assimilating within the USA as they estabish homesand means to provide for needs in safe environments within which parents work and children are educated. Outstanding to me about this work is how and when people cleave to and abandon their faith. These are dark and inspiring moments during which the mind, body and soul are in conflict. It is stormy and exhausting…
This is the story of Soledad (translation: loneliness) and her twin children, Ulises and Isabel. They have left Cuba because Soledad wished to protect her children from Cuba and what their adult lives might likely entail. Prison for sensitive and scholarly Ulises who’d be viewed as gay or a political threat, and the bearer of revolutionary children for Isabel possibly fathered by her own father, Uxbal, and revolutionary leader.
From Cuba they head as far away from the coast as possible to Hartford, Connecticut, where Soledad shacks up with Henri the Dutchman also tobacco farmer. Soledad and Henri, an unlikely couple settle into their lives.
This is where the narrative becomes strange. It’s loaded with Biblical references and way too much sex some bordering on violence. The characters react by digging deeper into their lives. Soledad becomes more sexual and competent at her courthouse job, Ulises becomes a knowledgable tobacco farm hand and Isabel spends way too much of her time around the convent in the comforts of silence and respite from the demons shouting in her mind.
The Encarnacion family is not warm and fuzzy with great concern for everyone’s emotional well being and because of this the family splinters off even further and this denial becomes obsession and characters roam the countries that whisper into their souls for their necessary return. What a trudge these returns to the motherland entail.
This book is about 50 pages too long, but there is great poetry, beauty and grit to Palacio’s writing which is why I will give him another chance. Every author has the right to suffer their first best seller and NYT 2016 top 100 Notable booklist status. Faith for effort is a willing expense.