Oscar Kortico, descendant of the founding family of a small, poverty-struck hamlet in a far flung part of Cuba, takes readers on a wild ride through three generations. He has inherited both the magical pig’s foot amulet of the title and the story of his family and how it interweaves with his country’s history.
As his tale unfolds with the quality of a fable, we learn that Oscar’s relatives were fearless fighters in the 19th-century war against Spanish occupation, originated Art Deco architecture, and taught the first world champion boxer to hail from Cuba. They are unschooled and educated by Emilio Bacardi, the rum baron. They are sensitive poets and horrible monsters, bent on destruction.
Family feuds abound, as do secrets, but there is plenty of affection among all the combustible relationships. Characters are gunned down or laugh themselves to death over the sly, surreal narration. And the colorful heritage of a multi-race people and culture teems with life.
Throughout his story, Oscar is more interested in the deep past than his near present, and by the end, readers find out why. He’s about as reliable a narrator as Don Quixote. A triumph of magical realism, translated in its glory by Frank Wynne.