One day Oscar Kortico wakes to find himself utterly alone in the world. As the sole descendant of his family line he is not sure what to do or where he should go, but in the midst of this uncertainty, he holds fast to what his grandfather always told him: ‘No man knows who he is until he knows his past, the history of his country.’
As he sets out to find the lost village of Pata de Puerco and the meaning of the magical pig’s-foot amulet he has inherited, the search for his country’s hidden history becomes entangled with his search for the truth about himself.
Through a vivid, if not entirely reliable, retelling of the stories of his ancestors we live the tumultuous history of Cuba through Oscar’s eyes, from the arrival of slaves through the wars of independence, to Bacardi rum, dictatorship, revolution and, finally, to a freedom of sorts.
I wanted so badly to like this book. I’d read reviews comparing Carlos Acosta’s writing to that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is my favourite author. Needless to say, I was excited and later horribly disappointed when this book fell short for me.
It wasn’t the writing style; Acosta’s writing is fluid and unique with a very charismatic narrator. The narration of Pig’s Foot was one of my favourite bits of the book and most of the reason I gave it two stars instead of one.
The setting wasn’t the problem either. I read a lot of South American and Hispanic literature so it wasn’t that I couldn’t relate or understand where or even when the story was taking place.
I think my biggest problem came 1/3 of the way in when I found myself asking, “What’s the point? Why do I care about this story and these people?” I felt no compulsion to keep turning pages and I didn’t really feel involved in the book as I felt I should have. I simply didn’t care about the characters or about how the whole thing ended.. and that included the weak plot twist.
Looking at other reviews, I’m relieved to see that I’m not alone. This is one book you’ll either love emphatically or strongly dislike. Sadly, I’m in the second camp.