In Cuba's history, a family divided

'The Mortifications' by Derek Palacio
'The Mortifications' by Derek Palacio
Courtesy of publisher

In 1980, the Mariel boatlift brought wave after wave of Cuban immigrants to Florida's shores. More than 120,000 Cubans fled the island over six months, splitting apart families as some fled and others stayed.

Derek Palacio's new novel, "The Mortifications," tracks the split of the Encarnacion family. The family's patriarch, Uxbal, refuses to leave behind what he's built and the ideology he believes in, but his wife, Soledad, flees in search of a new life, with her two young children in tow.

Soledad and her children land in Florida but push on to the harsh winters of Hartford, Conn. There, the children grow up with only ephemeral memories of Cuba, and of their father.

Palacio joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to discuss, "The Mortifications," and his own family history in the wake of Fidel Castro's death.

Palacio's family fled Cuba in 1956, when his father was only five. He had only fragmented memories of life there, Palacio said — brief flashes of the sugar cane plantations. Palacio channeled his own family history and long-distance relationship with the island in writing "The Mortifications."

"Palacio's Cuba is almost unreal — every hill, every flower, every young soldier and aging rebel existing like a dream which, eventually, draws home the entire Encarnacion family and refuses to ever let them go," NPR wrote of the book.

For the full interview with Derek Palacio on "The Mortifications," use the audio player above.

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