“One of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time...Readers of Fruit of the Drunken Tree will surely be transformed.”
--San Francisco Chronicle
“Simultaneously propulsive and poetic, reminiscent of Isabel Allende...Listen to this new author’s voice — she has something powerful to say.”
A mesmerizing debut set in Colombia at the height Pablo Escobar's violent reign about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both
Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.
When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city's guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona's mysterious ways. But Petrona's unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls' families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.
Inspired by the author's own life, and told through the alternating perspectives of the willful Chula and the achingly hopeful Petrona, Fruit of the Drunken Tree contrasts two very different, but inextricably linked coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras has written a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We all need human connection—but when we’re surrounded by danger, the mere act of trying to forge relationships can be risky. Seven-year-old Chula lives a happy life with her family in a gated community in Bogotá, Colombia, in the early ’90s, during drug lord Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. Chula’s fascinated by the family’s new maid, Petrona, but Petrona is harboring secrets that may end up hurting them all. Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ debut novel draws on her own childhood experiences and is told in alternating first-person perspectives. Intensely personal and unforgettable, Fruit of the Drunken Tree paints a searing picture of the devastating effects of government corruption, kidnappings, car bombs, and public assassinations on Contreras’ hometown.
Rojas Contreras packs her coming-of-age debut full of details about life in early 1990s Colombia during the last year of Pablo Escobar's reign of terror. Seven-year-old Chula's sheltered life in a gated community with her mother and older sister Cassandra cracks open with the arrival of 13-year-old maid Petrona. Petrona comes from a nearby shanty town and fascinates the implausibly precocious Chula, whose greatest excitements are spying on the richest lady in their neighborhood and hunting ghosts. Chula's formidable mother, Alma, grew up in a slum and copes with standoffish and judgmental well-heeled neighbors while her husband works in the oil fields. The family temporarily flees to Alma's home village to escape Bogot 's escalating violence, while Chula and Petrona get drawn into a situation that will eventually pose a dire threat. Chula's fixation on the news allows smooth introduction of the historical events surrounding Colombia's instability and Escobar's eventual death. The skeletal chapters from Petrona's perspective provide some belated explanations for the danger she exposed the family to. This striking novel offers an atmospheric journey into the narrow choices for even a wealthy family as society crumbles around them.
It was difficult for me because of the story being told from two different perspectives. However in the end it told the story of what people in other countries experience that is difficult for us Americans to imagine. I loved this novel because it made think and feel what I could never imagine and helped me see that my own trials are nothing in comparison to others.
This book is raw and uncensored. It is a true look into the lives of those affected by Pablo Escobar and the corruption that poisoned Columbia at the time.
It is a bit of a long read and is slow since it is written from the perspective a young girl and is almost like reading her journal.
This book has impressed upon me the stark differences between my life and the nightmare that is lived around the world by innocent people who are wronged through corrupted organizations that lead their countries. Grateful to be reminded of my need to do more and say more!
This books is a gem; a voyage into the lives of Latinos everywhere, and our perseverance.