HITTING SHELVES #38: The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

The Mortifications - Derek Palacio

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio comes out today!

It’s a debut novel about a rural Cuban family that gets torn apart by the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Soledad and her children–one of whom has a strange connection with death–settle in a foreign land called Connecticut, while patriarch Uxbal stays behind in Cuba until the Encarnacións can reunite. The Mortifications is a dreamily beautiful and painfully real story about families in exile.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Mortifications?

On the day my debut novel, The Mortifications, is released, I will spend the morning doing the same thing I always do: trying again—likely in vain—to elicit from my two-year old daughter the content of her dreams. I will ask her, “What did you dream about last night?” and she’ll probably say what she always says, which is, “I was sleeping, then I was waking up,” which I think means I didn’t have any dreams or I don’t remember my dreams or None of your damn business, can’t I have anything to myself?

Derek Palacio
Derek Palacio

Specifically regarding celebration: my generous and genius wife (this is not hyperbole, I’m married to Claire Vaye Watkins) bought me a cigar to light up on the day of the release, presumably whenever I want. It’s a nice cigar and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, but it does make me feel a little 1950s, as though I’ll be hanging out in some bar down the street from the hospital, waiting patiently for the call from my agent saying the book is out, ten fingers and ten toes, healthy and screaming. (It’s the perhaps not inaccurate feeling that though I had something to do with the book, I will, in the end, become a spectator to its reality.) Yet as I write this, I would like my book to come out healthy and screaming, which means I’m going to try to smoke the cigar before noon while my real kid is still at daycare. Doing so, I hope, will not only return to the act some measure of illicitness, but also give me time to come down from the nicotine buzz and change my shirt before picking up the aforementioned toddler from daycare.

I should also say there are cigars in the novel (as well as tobacco farming and, possibly, spirits in the soil), which is partly why Claire gifted me one, another way in which she was being incredibly thoughtful. We will be having a little party at the house to celebrate the novel, but that’s not till the day after the release, when I’ll launch the book at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. The day of, then, will just be for the two of us, which I like. She’ll be coming home from a reading gig in Georgia, and I think we’ll hang out in our backyard after we put the kid to bed, have a drink together, talk about her trip, and then probably talk about what it feels like for me to have a book out in the world. I tend to go inward with good news or happiness, which is a selfish impulse, holding my joys close to the bone. But I have a feeling I will want to talk next Tuesday, to share some of the hopes (dreams?) I have for the novel. I’m fortunate that she and I are both writers, that we both love doing the same thing. She, of course, knows well what it’s like to have a book released, to see the private thing become a public entity. It’ll be a wonderful and wild feeling sharing that unpredictable space with her on Tuesday. In the novel, there’s more than one scene where characters smoke cigars and talk seriously about their shit, where they are drawn closer together by what they share of themselves. If I can hold off on that cigar till Claire gets home, she and I might do something similar the night of the 4th.

Get the book here.

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