First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea!
Derek Palacio’s The Mortifications follows a rural Cuban family in the 1980s 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.
Ulises Encarnación did not believe in fate. This may have been a by-product of the sailor’s name of his father, Uxbal, had given him and the fact that Ulises detested ocean horizons – they were impermanent and appeared like waterfalls over which one could cascade into death. More likely his disbelief was a consequence of how Ulises was taken from Cuba as a young boy by his mother, Soledad, as a member of the now-infamous 1980 Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal had wanted the family to stay despite their poverty. They did have a sturdy house with a garden, tomatoes when others didn’t, but Soledad saw in Ulises a mind for school, and she worried about the state of young, pensive boys in Cuba. Bookworms were considered faggots, and though she did not think her son a homosexual, the state might, and she cringed at the thought of him in prison, or worse, at a rehabilitation camp.
Have you read this? What did you think about it?