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Fruit of the Drunken Tree

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In the vein of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a mesmerizing debut set against the backdrop of the devastating violence of 1990's Colombia about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.

The Santiago family lives in a gated community in Bogotá, safe from the political upheaval terrorizing the country. Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to this protective bubble, 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 inextricable coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras sheds light on the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published July 31, 2018

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About the author

Ingrid Rojas Contreras

8 books899 followers
INGRID ROJAS CONTRERAS was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, was named a “Best Book of Summer” by TIME. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and Zyzzyva, among others. She lives in California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,079 reviews
Profile Image for Jenny.
269 reviews95 followers
October 2, 2018
No matter who we are, what are race, religion, socio-economic background, we share some basic emotions and feelings. Fear, joy, love, jealousy, anger, sadness and hope are some of those emotions and feelings. What makes us different is our reaction to those feelings and the situations that brought about them.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras's debut novel, "Fruit of the Drunken Tree," takes us to the South American country of Colombia during the extremely violent and turbulent 1990's when drug-lord, Pablo Escobar, instilled fear among the natives as well as the world.
Drug kingpin Escobar was not the only threat Colombian residents had to live with. There were the communist guerrillas that were constantly trying to overthrow the government, kidnappings for ransom, other drug lords, smugglers, car hijacker bands, kidnappers that weren't guerillas, along with murders, robberies and so on. Some have described the nineties Colombia to the eighties Lebanon with all of the violence and corruption.
Contreras introduces us to the Santiago family who live in a "gated" community in Bogota. Children that live inside the gates are insulated from then outside world of violence. They have a life filled with more joy than sorrow, more smiles than tears and more sense of normalcy than those living outside the gates.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is similar to the novel, "The Invention of Wings", as it is told from two perspectives. One is of young Chula Santiago, age seven, who lives with her sister, Cassandra, and parents inside "the gates."
Chula is a very observant, inquisitive child. She watches and observes everyone. Some of her observations seem wise beyond her years.
Chula's mother hires a new girl to be their maid. Thirteen year old Petrona, becomes the novels other storyteller. Petrona lives outside the gates in abject poverty and is the oldest girl in a family of nine children. She finds herself the breadwinner for the family.
Petrona lives in a world of fear, death, poverty, rape, hunger and sadness.
Contreras uses real events in this fictional tale. She is a fantastic storyteller and her ability to seamlessly switch perspectives is a work of art.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree reminds me of standing in front of a great work of art trying to soak in every inch of it, knowing that you may have to go back again to get everything out of it.
Just a footnote to this tale is that the author discloses in the afterword, parts of the novel were based on true events that happened in her own life. Some people shut down and never share traumatic events. Contreras not opens up, she gives us a book that will be read for years to come.
I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. #Netgalley #FruitoftheDrunkenTree
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
975 reviews2,651 followers
September 16, 2018

First of all I think I’m in love with the cover of this book, what gorgeous color and pop this cover has! However the seeds from the “Drunken Tree” were used in making a very dangerous drug called “burundanga” used by many criminals in Bogota. “Victims who reported being drugged with burundanga woke up with no memory of sometimes assisting in the looting of their own apartments and bank accounts, opening their wallets and handing over everything, but that’s exactly what they had done”. So strong was the fruit of the Drunken Tree!

This novel is told from two perspectives. One of a young girl, Chula, living an easy going life in a grand house outside of Bogota, Colombia. At the time of the story she is age seven with an older sister, Cassandra, age nine. The family live in a gated community because there is so much gang activity and crime outside the area. They are quite isolated and play together, go to school on a bus and only shop in the few stores near their home.

The mother and wife in the story, Senora Santiago, was herself from a poor family but married a man who worked for an oil company. He was seldom home as he had to travel a great deal for his job. Mama was constantly trying to hire a live in maid for their home but they usually only lasted a few months. She felt it was her way of helping the less fortunate by trying to hire the girls from destitute families.Petrona was the newest maid she hired and is introduced at the beginning of the story.

Petrona tells the novel from her perspective. She is a very poor girl age thirteen who is required to work to try to support her large family at home. Her mother has become somewhat ill and much is expected of Petrona. Her older brothers have already joined the guerillas with much shame brought to the family. Despite warnings from her own family and Senora Santiago she is taken in by the attentions of a drug dealer, Gorrion. In the beginning he is attentive and charming but it is soon obvious why he is interested in Petrona.

I will leave you to discover the rest of this story of how many of the wealthy in Colombia got out and began to seek asylum in other countries including the United States. “The historical timeline between 1989 and 1994 was used sequentially, but time was compressed as the emotional timeline of the book required”. Pablo Escobar and his revolutionaries were coming into power and the police were corrupt.

Sadly this isn’t the first story of a country held hostage by drug cartels or revolutionaries and it reminds me of a book I read quite some time ago titled “Waiting For Snow in Havana:Confessions of a Cuban Boy” by Carlo Eire. If you enjoyed this book you might want to look into that novel which was quite well written.

At the end the author shares the fact that most of the story is indeed based on her own and her family’s life experiences. It is a very interesting footnote to the story.

While I enjoyed this historical novel I did feel that it dragged a little in the middle and I would have enjoyed further development of characters. This is a debut novel and I look forward to more from this talented author.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,084 reviews30.1k followers
July 31, 2018
4 stars to Fruit of the Drunken Tree! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

When I saw Fruit of the Drunken Tree compared to Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I knew it was a must-read for my list.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ debut is set in Colombia in the 1990s. It is focused on the Santiago family living in Bogota in a gated community. Gates are necessary because of the extreme political unrest in the country at the time. While the children are insulated from the world, just outside those protective bars are kidnappings, bombings, and other violence, all at the hands and orders of a drug lord named Pablo Escobar.

A new housekeeper, Petrona, is hired by the mother, Chula Santiago, and Petrona has been living in a guerrilla-occupied slum. Petrona is overburdened working to care for her family, while also being pulled by love to the “wrong side,” the dangerous side. Both Chula and Petrona’s families are seeking stability and safety in a time of outright upheaval and abject terror.

The author was inspired by her own life in her writing of Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Rojas Contreras uses the voices of Chula and Petrona as her narrators to capture the essence of the disparities between their lives and their means to survive. Chula and Petrona will be forced to make incomprehensible choices in their desire to keep their families intact.

Overall, Rojas Contreras’ writing is exquisite. The contrast between the beauty of the area and the horrific violence and turmoil is executed with sensitivity. Like I mentioned above, I was very much looking forward to reading this book, and it most certainly delivered in its storytelling.

Thank you to Doubleday for the complimentary copy to review. All opinions are my own. The Fruit of the Drunken Tree will be published on July 31, 2018.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,915 reviews35.3k followers
October 26, 2018
Library Overdrive Audiobook....
.....narrated by...Marisol Ramirez Almarie who was sooooooo outstanding....I had visions of bright changing colored fireworks in the sky. Her voice was perfect - flawless for this incredible- magnificent Latin American novel.

Once I started this Audiobook (testing my ass), I literally did not want to stop being in this world. ‘We’ ( my buddy iPhone/ audiobook), and I, made the bed, folded laundry, took a 90 minute walk, rode the bike in the house, did stretching exercises, cut cauliflower- asparagus-chicken to sauté - ate -spent a couple hours cleaning the guest room which included more wash - sweeping - hosing down the patio - restocking supplies for the guest room - soaking in the pool - but never would I let go -of my new companion - She followed me through the day. IT’S THAT TYPE OF BOOK!!!!! AUDIOBOOK PAGE TURNING WITH MAGNETIC POWERS - the reader is willingly a captive.

I had no idea it would be this good. Sometimes a beautiful book cover and an interesting book title turns out NOT TO BE A DISAPPOINTMENT.....THE WORDS INSIDE THIS BOOK ARE EVEN BETTER!

I now have an experience of Columbia in the 90’s during Pablo Escobar - which I didn’t before. I did read a little more on Google - but I didn’t mind. It was all fascinating.

It goes without saying that author Ingrid Rojas Contreras is a great storyteller....
I was in knots at times - on the verge of tears so many times- completely crying at the end . The authors notes will have you sobbing. Be prepared.

It’s THE EXPERIENCE.....not anything I write here that makes this book magnificent.
People were screaming - there were gun shots - more screaming- crying - men and women climbing over cars trying to get away -maybe Galan is Dead? - driving through darkness- Barbie dolls - fear - more fear .....and so many heartbreaking moments:
“mama, are you ok?” Mama never cried ......BUT SHE *was* crying!!

You’ll meet Chula, ( youngest sister and narrator) Casandra, and their mother. You’ll meet Petrona and her story ( which deeply broke my heart)...and how she connected with the Santiago Family.
From the VERY BEGINNING......to all the craziness and conflict in chaos and fright in the middle to the very end VERY END .....this novel - with it’s THROBBING TRAUMA....is strikingly beautiful!!!

One of the best books of 2018!!!

Profile Image for Jen CAN.
474 reviews1,301 followers
October 30, 2018
Ok truth- I added this one based on its title. Oh yes I did. The reality is, its flower, if consumed, can make one act as silly as a drunk 😵 and eventually poison it’s victim. Enough said.

This is a story of a relationship between a girl and her maid. In the background, the civil war rages in Columbia. Pablo Escobar reigning terror over the country. The impact is devastating. Until it moves to the forefront and the little tranquility known for this family disappears and in its place the violence becomes the norm. A staged kidnapping which goes awry; a missing father; a traitor.

Not a place I would ever visit knowing its history of civil war. Sadly, not all can escape the tragedy that awaits them. A disturbingly fictional account based on reality.
A slow start but worth the patience. Rich in culture and description. A terrific debut.
June 3, 2021

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I wonder about Goodreads users sometimes. People will pile on to heap praises about one book in particular while utterly ignoring brilliant contributions to the literary canon like this. I almost didn't read this book because it was such a wild card - and I am so glad I did not do that. In many ways, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE explores similar themes to other women-centered works of literary fiction like GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER or HOMEGOING. The book is set in Colombia in the early 1990s, when the cocaine lord Pablo Escobar held most of the political and economic power, and the wealth disparity led many low income individuals to support and encourage the gruesome violence of the guerillas.

There are two narrators. Chula, who along with her mother and older sister, is a member of the middle class in Colombia. By our standards, they don't have much, but when people across the city are living in shacks without electricity or running water, they seem very wealthy. The other narrator is Petrona, who is their maid. She lives in one of those shacks, called invasions, and is working to support her family in the absence of a real provider.

FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE, which is another name for the Angel's Trumpet flower, navigates the rocky political landscape of a country ruled by criminals, in a time of great inequality and political upheaval. The author brings up many great points about morality, and how it is easy to claim the high ground when you aren't starving. The people in Petrona's region, and many like it, were failed by the government, so men like Escobar who flashed cash and supplied jobs to boys and young men as runners and para-military, could seem like saviors, even if what they were doing was terrible in the big picture, because of the way he indirectly helped to bolster their economy. Chula's family, on the other hand, can afford to think big picture, and her mother was in favor of the liberal politician and reformist, Luis Carlos Galán, who wanted to end the corruption and drug running.

I really loved this story and thought that the author did a great job giving voice to Chula and Petrona. Both of them were very different girls, from different walks of life, and the author was very careful not to be preachy, or take sides. When Colombia is mentioned in fiction, it's generally portrayed as some grandiose, Scarface-esque locale that features glamorized portrayals of crime. This book, on the other hand, is influenced by the author's childhood memories of growing up in Bogotá during this time and seeing these kidnappings, rebellions, bombings, murders, and criminality firsthand. The focus on the relationship of these girls in the face of adversity was reminiscent of GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER, but this wasn't quite as gruesomely awful as GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER, and in my opinion, has a much happier ending, even if it isn't exactly a gleaming pot of sunshine.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is clearly an author to watch. I can't wait to see what she puts out next.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
442 reviews656 followers
October 2, 2018
Sometimes we are drawn to books by the cover, by the name, or even just the description. Well, it could also be the author too. But when I saw the name of this book, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to read it. Then, I saw it was about Columbia and Pablo Escobar and I immediately went to my library to grab it.

It tells the story of one family living in Bogota and their maid. Oh yeah, and in the world of Pablo Escobar. The story alternates between the young girl in the family, Chula, and their live-in also very young maid, Petrona. The story is fiction but weaves in details of real life such as the terror placed upon people in Columbia by Pablo Escobar, the murder of an upcoming politician, and the violence that was part of every day life in Columbia in the early 90's. You could trust no one. Kidnappings were something that happened on a daily basis. Adults were taken by guerrillas. Little Chula wanted to go out one day wearing her hair in a pony tail but her mother screamed at her how easy it would be for someone to grab her by her pony tail and kidnap her. There was fear and poverty everywhere. And little Chula was obsessed with Pablo Escobar, especially after seeing what remained of a recent car bomb in her neighborhood. Eventually, they flee to the United States for safety, becoming refugees.

After all that...I found it just OK. The story could have condensed and tightened up quite a bit. There was way too much wandering going on. Sometimes I got confused a bit what was going on. I listened to the audio version and will only say I did not like it. I grabbed the print in the end. It seemed a bit slow to me at many times. I'm glad to read something that takes place (mostly) in Columbia, a place I don't think I have encountered in my reading. The author wrote this book, using part of what happened to her as a small child growing up in Columbia. I just think I expected more from this one after I read the description.
Profile Image for Brina.
886 reviews4 followers
August 19, 2018
Buddy read in group Reading for Pleasure, review to follow when buddy read over.

4 stars for story
3 stars for prose
3.5 stars overall
Profile Image for Trudie.
519 reviews551 followers
November 12, 2018
Reviewing this book is particularly tough because despite really enjoying this, there remains this niggling feeling it could have been sensational if Contreras had worked out a few kinks first before embarking on such an ambitious debut. That may not be a fair criticism since writers need to start somewhere, right ? However, the meat of this story has so much potential that I was a little disappointed it didn't all work seamlessly. Despite these misgivings I am convinced The Fruit of the Drunken Tree can hold it's own with other headlining debut novels such as In my Mad and Furious City and There There.

Partly based on Contreras own experiences growing up in Colombia during the reign of Pablo Escobar, this added authenticity makes for a sobering read. While not specifically a story of the Colombian drug war, almost everything that happens is a consequence of it. I found plenty of resonance here with the TV show Narcos also set in Bogota and covering many of the incidents that form the historical backdrop to this novel.

In a way this is a "coming of age" novel narrated in turns by 7 year old Chula and her maid Petrona, who comes from the Invasiones ( Colombias version of slums). This is a journey to adulthood that navigates the dangers of kidnappers, car bombings, gangs, random blackouts and grinding poverty.

Chula recounting the headlines associated with her childhood -

When I was two, they killed the minister of justice - A DEATH FORETOLD
When I was four they murdered a newspaper editor in chief - STAND UP !
When I was five, a presidential candidate - THIS COUNTRY HAS GONE TO THE DEVIL
When I was six, a policeman negotiating peace - CARAJO, NO MAS !
When they murdered Luis Carlos Galan, the journalists didn't know what to say. There was no headline-just a larger than life photograph and his name printed above it in bold.

This is an excellent exploration of the longterm effects of political unrest on children, the normalisation of violence and the physical and emotional toll it exacts. Chula's morbid fascination with death ( she gets particularly focused on a child's leg she witnesses' on the news ) didn't seem age appropriate at first but I came to the conclusion that it would be almost impossible to live in Colombia at this time and protect your children from this information. For example, there is a scene where Chula and her sister are playing with Barbies dolls that have lost arms or legs, (Chula's sister likes to chew them off) and they devise an entire narrative where the limbless Barbies form paramilitary groups, it was macabre and chilling to read this as child's play and yet entirely believable.

Undoubtedly some editorial excisions could have been made that would have improved the flow of the narrative, it does have a rambling tendency and sometimes the momentum of key scenes is squandered. Although not a translated novel, occasionally I thought the author couldn't quite find the exact words she wanted to use in English and this resulted in some clunky phrasing. Ultimately, these niggles didn't bother me as I was just so entranced by Chula and Petrona's entwined stories.

The Fruit of the Drunken Tree requires patience but if you have any interest in Colombia then I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,414 reviews7,408 followers
December 5, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I can’t believe I’m the first of my Goodreads friends to have read this. It seems like it was everywhere for a minute. And honestly? As soon as I saw the words . . . .

I was in. What can I say? I’m a cheap sell and my husband won’t wait for me when it comes to Netflix so there’s no chance I can keep up with Narcos to get my Pablo Escobar fix.

Now that I’m finished????

It wasn’t at all what I was expecting since I didn’t read the (way too long) blurb, but it was still pretty amazing. Briefly put, this is the story of Chula and Petrona who are growing up in Colombia during the ‘90s. Chula is a seven-year old who has been born into a life of privilege, living behind the safety of gates thanks to her father’s earnings in the oil industry. Petrona is a young teenager from the slums who has been hired by Chula’s family as a maid. Behind everything in the background is the cat-and-mouse game which is finding Pablo Escobar.

You may find your reading experience to be similar to that of a memoir, and you wouldn’t be wrong since this is fiction inspired by the author’s own upbringing. The story here focuses mainly on Chula, her life and her observations of what is going on around her with entries provided by Petrona about her life away from the estate (Petrona’s story probably would have earned 72 Stars and had me hospitalized from fangirling myself to death). While the writing and language aren’t that of a child, Chula’s view of the world and its goings on most definitely has a childlike naiveté.

I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone who is looking for a different sort of coming-of-age story set in a time and place unfamiliar to many of us that focuses on the where just as much as it does on the what and why and how.
Profile Image for Patrice Hoffman.
552 reviews256 followers
June 10, 2018
Wow! What an incredibly moving and touching story. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras delivers a vivid, profoundly engrossing coming of age story that is told through two young girls who couldn't be more different, yet, they share a connection that is unheard of given the circumstances

Fruit of the Drunken Tree begins with the primary narrator, Chula, studying a photo of a young girl she once knew in Bogota. Chula and her family live a relatively comfortable life behind the walls and gates that protect them from the violence that ravages through Colombia. Chula recounts the time that Petrona, the other narrator, is hired to work in her home as a housekeeper.

Petrona, although a little older than Chula, lives in a village that's been pillaged by the local guerillas. The burden of supporting her family rest on her young shoulders and it's heartbreaking.

Actually... much of this story is heartbreaking. Although Contreras writing is poetic, I couldn't stop feeling anxious for both Petrona and Chula as they navigated through the circumstances of their lives. Chula, so naive, so wholesome, so loving resonates with the reader. Although the narrator is obviously an older her recounting a definitive time in her past, there's still an innocence that contrasts remarkably from the stories backdrop.

Seriously Colombia was scary as fuck.

Listen, I understand I'm not actually doing this read any justice with my layman's review. I can only say that I began reading this title not sure what to expect, nor sure I even wanted to commit to it. Before long, I couldn't tear myself away from Chula and Petrona's story. Both forced to make choices that would forever alter who they are.

And to top it off, Ingrid Rojas Contreras discloses in the Afterword what parts of the novel were based on true events that happened in her life. And I couldn't help but kick myself for being just another dumb American who never once even considered learning more about Colombia. I just let it be the cocaine capital. I never once considered the people who lived in this hell. People who were forced to continue living even with the threat of kidnappings, or random bombings, the constant death, and with nobody trustworthy to run to since the police were as corrupt as the rapists or murderers.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a worthwhile read that I enjoyed thoroughly. This coming of age story of two girls who dealt with the pieces of their lives. Some agreeable and others not so agreeable. These instances ultimately teach them that life goes on and what once was no longer can be. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

Copy provided by Doubleday Books via Netgalley
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,693 reviews1,479 followers
August 24, 2018
I do not like the writing found in this book.

The prose, how a book is written and what characters say, is very important to me. I want a child to speak as a child does speak. A child and an adult have not the same vocabulary. Is a third grader going to say the following?

"It was at that moment I realized how fragile life really is?"

Not in my opinion. This is merely one example of many. A book’s credibility is tied to believable prose.

A mismatch between the words and the age of the person speaking them is not the only problem with the writing. Generally speaking, words are not used as they should be used. There were sentences that left me confused. I have the impression that the author is not truly fluent in English. She was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, and has received awards for her writing. It is only fair that I balance my criticism with mention of the praise she has received.

Each author has their own manner of writing. This book emphasizes drama over factual, informative content. I prefer the latter over the former. I wanted to learn about the drug cartels in Colombia. This is why I picked up the book. A good book of historical fiction can in fact teach. Here, the plot is intended to excite rather than to inform. This is an additional reason why the book failed me. It could of course be exactly what you are looking for.

Excitement, young adult love, which is thrown in too, and rebellious women, allowing one to classify it as a work of feminism, is a great mix for many.

I rarely dump books. This I dump having completed more than half.

Marisol Ramirez is the primary narrator of the audiobook. Her screeching I quite simply could not bear another minute of. Other times she whispers, making it impossible to hear the words said. She overdramatizes. PLEASE narrators, readers are capable of thinking and can figure out for themselves when an author’s words evoke suspense. Happiness and sadness can be determined from words and need not be played out for listeners in a cinematic fashion.

I wish to state clearly that I rate the book and its narration separately. Both the book’s content and its narration I dislike. Both I have given one star.

Several of us in a GR group chose to read and discuss this book. If you are interested in following our discussion, please look here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
765 reviews1,141 followers
April 27, 2019

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
is a beautiful and heart-rending novel set against the backdrop of Columbia in the 1990s. This was a dangerous and volatile period and the author draws on experiences from her own childhood. It is told through the eyes of 7 year old Chula, and through the eyes of her family's maid, 13 year old Petrona. Obviously, Chula's family has money; Petrona's does not. Petrona, who lives in a guerilla-occupied slum, has the responsibility of her entire family resting on her young shoulders. Chula's father works for the oil company and lives a sheltered and privileged life. Yet even she and her family are not safe from the unrest and violence taking place in her country.

I loved this novel because I didn't know much about this period of time and am glad to have learned a lot through the book. I also loved how Ingrid Rojas Contreras presents both sides, how the fighting affected all, poor and rich. The government tried to protect the rich, and the guerrillas represented the poor, each group targeting the other. This would have been a terrifying time, as one would always worry about being killed or kidnapped.

I felt the novel dragged a bit in the middle, which is why I'm not giving this 5 stars, but all-in-all, it's a brilliant and beautiful novel and I recommend it to all who enjoy historical fiction.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,300 reviews119 followers
February 24, 2019
Colombian-American author Contreras has set her poignant tale in Colombia during the rise-and-fall of Pablo Escobar (1989-1994). The country’s social and physical infrastructure is imploding—car bombings, gangs, random blackouts, and kidnappers. The police force is largely corrupt. Assassinations of key figures occur with disturbing frequency—Minister of Justice, the newspaper Editor-in-Chief, and even Luis Carlos Galan, the presidential candidate.

The author has the reader hear the story through the eyes of two children. Chula Santiago’s story begins when she is just 7-years-old. She is blessed to be living in a gated community largely impervious to the simmering violence just beyond its walls. Blackouts turn into nighttime flashlight games with much running and giggling with her older sister Cassandra. Juxtaposed to Chula, is the story of Petrona Sanchez, who lives in the Las Invasiones (the shanty town on the steep slope of a mountain). At the age of 13, her mother shoos her out of the house to get a job to help support the family; and ends up on the doorstep of the Santiago family to work as a maid. Chula and Petrona form an attachment of sorts. Chula is fascinated by Petrona—why does she talk so little? What kind of family does she come from? As for Petrona, the playfulness of the girls makes the dreariness of her own life feel so much more painful.

A couple of years pass, and Bogata is becoming ever more dangerous. Chula is injured from shards of glass when her window explodes from the percussive effects of a nearby car bomb. The Santiagos lose their water and now have to haul it in from elsewhere.

Cassandra has a habit of chewing the limbs off her Barbie dolls, but that doesn’t stop the girls from forming pretend paramilitary groups with them. [Who needs GI Joes?] As for Petrona, she has to deal with real paramilitary groups that result in the deaths of family members. Which group? It is hard to tell, there are so many—right-wing paramilitaries, left wing revolutionary rebels, drug trade cartels, and more. Each of these organizations need money and are willing to get it anyway they can—burglaries, extortion, and—you guessed it—kidnappings.

Antonio Santiago works in the oil industry, most recently for an American firm. Will he or his children be targeted? Of course! [Of note, Contreras points out in the Afterword that she was targeted to be kidnapped herself when she was growing up.] So—ultimately, this becomes a refugee story. What is left when you are forced to abandon home and country?

As for Petrona—it is hard to tell heroes and criminals apart when your family is suffering and slowly disappearing; “and I understood I had risked everything for another woman’s daughter, and nobody would do the same for me.”

Much like Colombia, the drunken tree is beautiful, dangerous and intoxicating. Recommend.
Profile Image for Mary.
423 reviews771 followers
August 11, 2018
This was a surprise. The blurb doesn’t really do this book justice. It’s not so much about the friendship of a girl and a teenage maid; it wasn’t a friendship, it was more of a desperate, awkward relationship under impossible circumstances. I flipped to the author’s note early on and realized that what I was reading was based on the true events of her growing up in Pablo Escobar’s Colombia, and things took on a more urgent slant. By the final third I was riveted and haunted, and I thought about how books like this – emotional, beautiful, distressing books like this – humble me, not that I especially need humbling – my own parents fled poverty, most of those I grew up around fled starvation, war, and certain death. “And some, I assume, are good people.” The destruction of a country, a generation, a girl and a teenaged maid was lingering and absolute. I finished this book 12 hours ago and still feel angry and hopeless - maybe an odd reaction to a sad, subtle, and gorgeously written novel. Maybe not.
Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
689 reviews419 followers
August 26, 2018
Thank you so much Doubleday Books for providing my free copy of FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE by Ingrid Rojas Contreras - all opinions are my own.

This is a gorgeous, heart-wrenching debut that I completely devoured. Set in Bogotá, Colombia, in the 1990’s, the story begins with seven-year-old Chula Santiago and the Santiago’s maid, thirteen-year-old Petrona Sánchez during the time of Pablo Escobar, guerrilla warfare, corruption, the imminent threat of violence, kidnappings, and car bombings. This is a coming-of-age story about two young girls from two very different worlds with an incredible bond. Chula is sheltered and comes from a family of means while Petrona’s family suffers with extreme chaos and poverty. Chula and Petrona are two vibrant and captivating characters whose perspectives alternate throughout. Also, a very interesting fact is that the story is inspired by Contreras’ own life, so needless to say, I could not put this book down.

Contreras writes with lush, poetic prose and brilliant authenticity. She captures Chula’s fear, imagination, bewilderment, and credulousness, all the while showing how Petrona is plagued with responsibility and the pressure of having to grow up way too fast. Although Chula is the primary narrator, reading from Petrona’s perspective adds a level of depth to the story that I enjoyed. The friendship between Chula and Petrona is compelling and propulsive, as their two experiences are very different and Chula’s cloistered point-of-view was almost painful to read. FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN is an impressive, thought-provoking novel with vivid and descriptive language that kept me engaged until the very emotional end.
Profile Image for luce (tired and a little on edge).
1,417 reviews3,408 followers
August 28, 2021
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Given that this book was described as being in the vein of Isabel Allende, I had quite high exceptions. While I did find the opening chapter to be intriguing, to compare Fruit of the Drunken Tree to Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez seems both lazy (a comparison that has less to do with substantial similarities—such as style or genre—that with geographical location....I'm not sure why publishers are still comparing any new authors from Latin America to Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and inadequate. Sadly, I never warmed to Ingrid Rojas Contreras' writing style nor her characters. While I understand that the author based the story on her personal experiences, I found her storyline to be more intent on creating emotional drama than sense. Worse still, I could not get past the novel's subtly racist undertones.

“War always seemed distant from Bogotà, like niebla descending on the hills and forests of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like a fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.”

First, I'll start with a few positives. Ingrid Rojas Contreras renders the internecine climate of 1990s. The author details the realities of Colombia during Pablo Escobar's reign of terror by conveying the day-to-day dread, fear, and violence that prevailed in this period. I appreciated the factual aspects of this novel, such as when Contreras' recount Escobar's latest actions by having characters listen to the radio or watch tv. The atmosphere of political uncertainty has a visible influence on the characters—regardless of their age/class. I liked reading about the games Chula and her older sister played (the bond between Chula and Cassandra was the most believable relationship in the whole novel).

Now, for the not so positives. The writing was weighed down by laboured similes (in which red fishes are “gelatinous mice” and headlights seem “traced out of nothingness by the invisible hand of God”). Ineffectual descriptions added little to the narrative, seeming more confusing that evocative (a particularly bad one is: “They looked different, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Other than to say they were thinner, and they no longer looked like children. It reminded me of how Petrona didn't look her age, but older. Like they were scratched behind their faces.”). Chula and Petrona's had a too similar way of narrating things, which cast a doubt on their supposed differences in age/class.
Chula's perspective is incredibly one-dimensional. Chula is looking back to this period of her life. She's now older and in America. Yet, 'present' Chula offers no special insights into what happened in Bogotà. She more or less sticks to the perspective she had of things as a child. She doesn't understand and is mystified by what's going on around her. There is 0 foreshadowing, which again felt like a missed opportunity. It would have added much needed suspense and provided a break from child-Chula's limited pov. I wasn't expecting a Kazuo Ishiguro level of conversation between past and present but Chula's perpetual incomprehension grated on me. And Contreras could have done something more similar to what Wayétu Moore does in her memoir (the first section she recounts the Liberian Civil War as she experienced it—that is as a child—while the following ones focus on her as an adult looking back on those same events).
Perpetua's chapters were brief and intentionally vague. Her feelings towards Gorrión and her employers are never clearly depicted. A lot of what she does or say seemed out of the blue, and ultimately made her into an unconvincingly inconsistent character. Her story also seems to carry a moralistic tone that I didn't particularly care for (her mother warned her not to frequent that “bestia, animal, atrevido, desgraciado” who is “black like dirt”).
The mothers in this novel are portrayed like the classic 'hysterical' mothers, prone to screaming outbursts and fits of violence. 90% of the time Chula's mother is portrayed as being horrible, irrational, and/or insensitive. Then she has these very out-of-character in which she seems to have had a completely switch of personality. While I know from personal experience that there are parents who can be very erratic (the joys of bipolarity) Chula's mother was often presented as being some sort of wicked witch (the whole thing with the drunken tree). Her instability existed only to make readers pity Chula (who otherwise would have been too 'privileged').
Now....Gorrión. He is the only explicitly black character and he's a monster with no redeeming qualities. Every scene he's in is made to feel the reader uneasy. His eyes 'bore' into this and that, he uses his body to intimidate women and children, he's an abusive rapist with no scrupulous. He's just bad, through and through. Often, he's described as the 'black guy' or the young man with 'afroed hair'. Other are suspicious of his blackness, and the narrative seems to agree with their racial judgment. He's the true 'villain' of the novel while Escobar remains a background figure. Gorrión doesn't have a real personality as he only seems to have morally reprehensible character traits. The way the author describes his eyes and nose also worked to give this impression of Gorrión being less-than-human. Which...how about not (before I'm accused of being overly sensitive, there are at least three other reviews on GR who—regardless of whether they ultimately liked or disliked this novel—criticised the author's portrayal of Gorrión.
The novel's examination of class divide seemed simplistic and relied on tired stereotypes.
The drawn-out plot is slowed down by the author's repetitive language. Some of the characters seem to change in the last few chapters, but this change seemed more for effect than anything else.

Overall, I did not like this novel. It was quite moralistic (especially towards Perpetua's sex life) and the 'friendship' between Chula and Perpetua was poorly developed. The author seemed only to have scratched the surface of the reason why Chula was so obsessed with Perpetua. The characters—in particular the adults and Perpetua—acted incongruently throughout the novel, often only to add unneeded drama or angst.
I doubt I will ever feel inclined to read more by this author.

Profile Image for Connie G.
1,665 reviews441 followers
March 3, 2023
Set in the violent time of the drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1990s Columbia, "Fruit of the Drunken Tree" is the story of two girls coming from very different circumstances. Seven-year-old Chula Santiago lives with her parents and sister, Cassandra, in a gated community in Bogata. Chula's father works for an American oil company, and is away in the oil fields for extended times.

Chula's mother hires thirteen-year-old Petrona Sanchez as a maid. Petrona's father and older brothers had been captured by the paramilitary. Petrona is now expected to provide income to support her asthmatic mother and her younger siblings living in a shack in the slums of Bogata.

As the violence increases in Bogata, Chula's exposure to it also escalates from seeing news reports of kidnappings on TV to witnessing a murder to having a bomb explode in her neighborhood. The violence keeps moving closer to home. Petrona is under pressure to cooperate with the encapotados in the slum. Heartbreaking choices are forced on her since she really has so few options in her life.

The fictional book was inspired by the author's personal experiences as a child in Bogata. The story has many authentic details that transport the reader to Colombia. While Chula is often confused at her tender age, TV news reports and adult conversations fill in the political reality. "Fruit of the Drunken Tree" is a coming-of-age story with a high emotional cost where survival is the main goal.
Profile Image for Dianne.
555 reviews891 followers
October 2, 2018
I love books about other cultures with historical viewpoints. This novel takes place in Colombia at the time of Pablo Escobar. There are two storylines. Petrona is a young girl from Las Invasiones, a slum area near Bogota, Colombia. She works as a housemaid in Chula’s parents’ home. Chula is seven and Petrona is thirteen at the beginning of the novel. Their stories are told in alternating chapters and are set against the drama of what is happening in Colombia with the rise of the vicious drug cartels. It’s a story of social change, of the great divide between privilege and poverty, of social class, of impossible choices.

This was a 3.5 for me. It is a good story about a historical period of time and place I really knew little about but it was too long and meandering. There are extraneous characters and events that are just filler, and don’t really add anything of significance to the story. At the end, the author’s note explains that much of the novel was based on her experiences, which probably explains why so much detail was stuffed into the book. I also wished there was more character development - Petrona was the more intriguing character to me, but her chapters were short and spare. I didn’t know her as well as I wanted to. The ending, as regards Petrona, I found hard to swallow.

Flaws aside, I’m glad I read this. It’s always enlightening when you read books where you live a life you otherwise could not fathom. Recommend to lovers of historical fiction and stories of female friendship.
Profile Image for Libby.
575 reviews157 followers
February 24, 2019
‘Fruit of The Drunken Tree’ by Ingrid Rojas Contreras is a gripping account of growing up in Bogotá, Colombia during the years of Pablo Escobar’s drug empire. Chula, seven years old, and Cassandra Santiago, nine years old, are two sisters, whose Papá works at a faraway oil site and comes home every other weekend. Their Mamá rules what she and her two daughters think of as a ‘kingdom of women.’ Growing up in an invasión, a slum area where poor people take over the land and build houses out of whatever they can cobble together, Mrs. Santiago has married into a better life and now lives in a nice home with columns with her husband and two daughters.

Perhaps Mrs. Santiago's past is why she takes in a housemaid from the invasión on the outskirts of town. A thirteen year old girl, Petrona is hired to do washing, ironing, general household chores and help with the two girls; Chula and Cassandra are amazed by Petrona’s silence, counting her syllables. Over time, she begins to talk more, befriending Chula, who is close to the age of her own younger sister, Aurora.

I am drawn like a moth into the flame of this story, where the author, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, who also grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, builds a small fire. We will come and warm our hands as we watch TV with the Santiagos, seeing how bombs are going off and people are being assasinated; even though it’s within their city, the Santiago’s think they’ll be safe if they just don’t go out in public for awhile. Chula, only seven, develops trauma through the TV news, when she sees how an exploded bomb kills a young girl her age.

The police refuse to go into the poor side of town, into the invasións, where Petrona's family lives. If not for the encapotados (the hooded ones), helping the poor fight off violence, the poor would be at the mercy of criminals. As it is, the poor often don’t know who their true friends are. The guerrillas or paramilitary groups offer young boys, like Petrona's brothers, an opportunity to make money, which means they have food to eat, and can occasionally provide an item of luxury for their family, like a TV or a radio. They can wear leather jackets and brand name shoes. Frequently, those young boys end up casualties, their bodies strewn across the mountainsides and valleys of their homeland. Contreras makes this story personal; it’s about politics, yes, but it’s so much more about people at the mercy of a maelstrom they did nothing to create.

Contreras is stellar at showing the viewpoint of the child, Chula, aged seven to nine, during much of this story. It is truly heartbreaking to think of children growing up traumatized by so much violence all around them, the feeling of never truly being safe. It’s something, thankfully, that I cannot truly comprehend, except in books like this one. Such a debt, I feel, to Contreras who conveys so well what it is like to like to live in Chula's skin. Also, to create the complex character of Petrona, the housemaid, with whom I felt such sympathy; how impossible it is to escape the circumstances of her birth.

So, what does it mean? The fruit of the drunken tree? I think it’s Pablo Escobar and similar situations (of violence, of politics, oh yes!). Their beauty illuminates for a time; it will ensnare the innocent, the unsuspecting, we poor and unsophisticated. However, when there’s a poisonous outcome, then the tree is known by its fruit. Having said that, I love Datura, 'the drunken tree' which grows here where I live in North Carolina as a shrub called ‘Angel Trumpet.’ Just don’t eat it! Observe its beauty but beware it's lethality. But this book, absorb every word!
Profile Image for Ella.
736 reviews126 followers
March 2, 2018
When I was young, I was frequently chastised for being "too sensitive." I wasn't a wimpy sort of kid; I just felt everything -- deeply. If I was happy, I was practically delirious. When I really felt something, I was frequently accused of being melodramatic. I truly was not trying to get attention. I was just a little different from my very tightly-wound family. I projected thoughts and feelings onto everything from animals to bedsheets. I remember the weighty impact certain realizations made on me when I became aware of them: the vast number of people in the world each living their own life of which I was completely unaware, the horror of being homeless, my cousin Katie who died in a household accident before I ever knew her and who still remains six dressed in a plastic halloween costume in my mind -- that's the picture I had seen.

Maybe this is why the luminous story of Chula Santiago and her much-coveted friend, Petrona, resonates so deeply for me. Chula is a child who believes in ghosts and communicates her feelings to cows via impassioned "moo" sounds. She is also a girl who watches, listens and reads the adult world around her. Chula feels everything -- deeply.

Despite being set in Bogotá during the Pablo Escobar saga, this book is not Narcos. It is a "normal" yet strange and magical childhood taking place amid extremely unusual circumstances. Two girls from two very different worlds form an unusual bond while the world around them shapes each in her own way. It takes us on a trip from exuberant child in Bogotá to a refugee shadow in East L.A. and shows us how need or suffering can bend and transform anyone. Despite all of that, this is no sad tale.

The story opens when Chula's mother is looking for a new "girl" to serve as a maid in their middle-class Bogotá household. The maid, Petrona, is in actuality a 13 year old girl who has to work rather than go to school because her family has been through its own horrors as the result of the narco-war and now lives in a sort of shanty-town of pervasive poverty. As the oldest girl of nine children, Petrona has largely become maid and mother figure to her own family and now must become the breadwinner, which brings her to the Santiago household.

Petrona is a mystery to Chula and her sister Cassandra, who hunt the neighborhood for the Lost Souls of Purgatory and play "ding-dong-ditch" all the while trying out the adult words that swim in their minds. They wonder if she is a poet, saint, witch or possibly under a spell. Passionate Chula is impressed with how little Petrona speaks and counts every syllable that comes from her mouth. She is a mystery in their otherwise conventional lives.

Behind all the childrens' silliness is the very real war of Pablo Escobar with the Colombian and US governments. In Chula's voice Escobar is both a television star and an entirely inhuman monster, an ever-present source of questions and gossip who serves as an entrée into the grown-up world. The Santiagos work around Escobar's war in the most mundane ways. He is an unusual inconvenience for a family that wants to go to the mall or a movie until events and the news press their way into Chula's consciousness.

The book overlays a story onto a real timeline of Colombia. True historical events happen in the fictional story. It's done with a deft grace and while it's not a history book, there are events in this book that even I, an American 'tween at the time, still remember.

Real heart runs through all of the characters in this story. From the always-working Papá and his observation that the cows may have recently read Sartre to Mamá's advice on dealing with men and other beings to Petrona's thoughts and private worries and the two Santiago sisters who are strong-willed each in her own way.

Eventually, after the Santiago family has welcomed Petrona as much as they ever will and Chula gets her wish of a real bond with Petrona, the country's horrors force their way through the Santiago's door and Chula is forced to begin to grow up -- differently, though correspondingly -- to the way Petrona had before the two ever met.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras gives us a very authentic child's voice with laugh-aloud moments and devastating truths sometimes in the same sentence. Chula is haunted by images and events in the way only children can be -- simple and profound all at once. I've been asked not to quote, but I found this a welcome rendering of a fascinating girl that took me back to the magical kingdom of childhood.

And then it dumped me, along with Chula and Petrona and all the other characters into the confusing world of adulthood with all its cloying tragedy, but we are all still alive.

The novel deals deftly with class differences and the way having enough or far too little molds children. It does a commendable job at showing the way tragedy can morph a confident and spirited child into a anxious mute, squelching any room for passion or flights of fancy. The only thing I want now is to know what became of these two young women after the book ended. I do so wish I could quote the final sentence, uttered in Petrona's voice...

My copy has so much highlighting noted as "beautiful" or that made me giggle at Chula's strong spirit, the highlights became useless. Fruit of the Drunken Tree broke my heart a hundred times and fully restored it almost every time.

So good, though I've read it, I finished and immediately pre-ordered a hardback copy to keep for myself and read again.

magical realism:
2 : a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction (from Merriam Webster)

The book isn't being marketed, at least in advanced reviews, as magical realism, and I don't really think it is. But since the story is told through the eyes of a child, and children live in their sometimes magical imaginations perhaps especially children raised in the Catholic religion, this broadly fits the category and would probably appeal to anyone who can immerse themselves fully in the world of a lusciously-written character on a page.

Expected publication: July 31st 2018 by Doubleday

I received an advanced reader's copy of Fruit of the Drunken Tree from NetGalley & Doubleday books and this is my honest review. Also published on my blog at http://mccrystle.blogspot.com/ and http://ellamc.booklikes.com/
Profile Image for Kara Paes.
57 reviews46 followers
July 27, 2018
Thank you to Doubleday Books for the free review copy via Netgalley. This was the first book I read set in Colombia and I was blown away. I learned so much about Colombia, Colombian culture, and Pablo Escobar. What we see in the news is so different than the perspective of actual Colombian citizens. I was surprised to learn that Pablo Escobar was not universally hated, but actually loved in his hometown. Ingrid Rojas Contreras' writing truly transported me to Colombia and made me feel as though I was there with Chula and Petrona throughout their journeys. This has absolutely been one of my favorite reads of the year and I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,037 followers
February 24, 2019
This is the story of a young girl whose family lives in Colombia during the height of Pablo Escobar. The narration moves between Chula, the girl, and a young woman who is hired from las Invaciones (the very poor part of town) to do various things in the home. It's an interesting reading experience because the reader has to fill in some of the gaps - Chula sees but she doesn't always understand (whether it's class difference, danger, intentions, hidden meanings, etc,) and Petrona makes decisions sometimes that seem a bit illogical at times (more of a survival mode.) It was a bit uneven in places but overall I enjoyed it very much. Most of the story comes from the author's actual life, and it really is an entirely different thing, growing up surrounded by so much danger and violence.
Profile Image for Monica Kim | Musings of Monica .
506 reviews533 followers
September 30, 2018
Multiply me when necessary. Transform me into light where there is shadow. — Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ debut novel, “Fruit of the Drunken Tree” was inspired by the author’s own personal experiences. This is a beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the beautiful, but violent Colombia in the 1990’s, at the height of druglord Pablo Escobar's violent reign. It’s a difficult read, there’s lot of devastating scenes that were hard to swallow; but the tone of the novel remains somewhat linear entirety of the book. Many of the chapters felt bit redundant, I felt like I was re-reading some chapters because the plots repeat itself few times. Hard to explain, but you’ll understand once you read the novel. I was expecting to be blown away, it fell little bit short of that, but It was the author’s mesmerizing, lyrical pose that kept me going.
Told in alternating first-person POV of curious & care-free Chula, youngest daughter of middle-class Santiago family, living in a gated-community and Petrona, a quiet live-in maid from guerrilla-occupied slum, living under the heavy burden of providing for her struggling family. As both girls' families scramble to maintain stability amidst the extreme violence & political turmoil — car bombs, kidnapping, and assassination, Chula & Petrona forges an unexpected friendship, entangled in dangerous situations & web of secrecy. Due to rapidly escalating conflict, Santiago family flees the country, eventually settling in LA; without the father at first who is thought to be captured & jailed, but does come to America many years later. However, Petrona is caught between providing for her family & dangerous love that pulls her into a wrong path with devastating & heartbreaking consequences. At 15, what Petrona goes through is absolutely heart-wrenching, it broke my heart. I couldn’t bare anymore danger & pain this young girl & her body had to dealt with, it is too much.
I thought the author has done a great job of interweaving seamelessly two very different, but inextricably connected coming-of-age stories during violent Columbia in the 1990’s. It was interesting to witness the turmoil through the eyes of two young girls & their war-torn childhoods. It’s a coming-of-age story, an immigrant story, a thrilling mystery, and a profound historical story — a story that deserves to be told & heard. The writing is excellent, Contreras is a phenomenal writer. I highly recommend this novel & you to listen to few of her interviews, she’s smart & fascinating person to listen to. Despite few rough patches, I could not put this novel down.
So the last two novels I’ve read were both fantastic debut novels by POC authors, set in different countries & time periods. It made me realize just how important & vital we have these talents in the contemporary literary world. The breadth of experiences & compelling voices we as readers are able to experience through their writing is unparalleled to other traditional contemporary novels.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,184 reviews268 followers
November 10, 2018
Headlines were our funeral song.

3.5 stars. Be warned Fruit of the Drunken Tree has a very slow start. So much so, that I actually gave up just before the 20% mark. Luckily a GR friend mentioned in her review that she had the same issue, but that the pace picked up exponentially one you pass this point.

Wow, and what a turnaround it was. In fact the deeper I got into this book the more the writing, the story and the characters hooked me. Chula's voice was heartfelt and genuine, probably because this book was based on true events.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is not perfect, but shows glimpses of absolute brilliance, and as this is my first book of Columbia in the era of Pablo Escobar I was fully absorbed and appalled by the history of this country.

The Story: The perils of day-to-day existence in late-20th-century Colombia—a time of drug lords, guerrillas, kidnappings, and car bombs—are glimpsed through the eyes of a child and her family's teenage maid, whose relationship exposes two facets of the class divide.

Profile Image for Ace.
430 reviews23 followers
December 16, 2018
I added this then removed it from my TBR but then changed my mind and picked it up again. It was a bit of a hard slog for me, I know nothing of this history of Columbia and didn't have internet access to look anything up. The main issue I had with this was that I had to try to keep remembering that Chula was a small child and yet the writing seemed to me to be representing a much more mature teen or someone closer to young adult. I am afraid it didn't work for me like some other GR friends here. I wish it had.

The cover is beautiful. I have added a star for that. 3 stars for the book itself as I think it will stay with me for a good while.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,197 reviews35 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 30, 2018
DNF at 40%

Sigh. I thought I would love this - instead I found myself not wanting to pick it up and not caring for the choice of the dual narrative or the pacing... or the writing style. The story had such potential, but because of the reasons listed above I found it dry and dull. Unfortunate because this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year but I don’t have the patience to see if it improves.
Profile Image for Judith E.
531 reviews188 followers
February 24, 2019
Told through the eyes of two young girls, this is a sad and moving story of Colombia during the Pablo Escobar reign of terror. It is a murky and desperate setting that illustrates the wide divide between economic groups in Bogata and the terror in which both groups live.

A strange story but a promising debut by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
599 reviews18.7k followers
June 20, 2019
This is a story about a family living in Bogota, Colombia during the early 1990s, when  violence reigned due to conflicts caused by the FARC, guerrillas, Pablo Escobar, and the paras.

The novel is narrated in the alternating points of view of a child (Chula) and her family's maid (Petrona). I found it interesting, specially at the beginning since I enjoy reading stories with a backdrop of historical events and this one described many real incidents of the time.

What did not work for me was that around the middle the plot slowed a bit and I would have liked to know more about one of the characters, her perspective, and motivation for some actions. 

Overall, I enjoyed it and recommend it to readers of historical and contemporary fiction. 
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
451 reviews359 followers
September 18, 2018

Content Warning: Rape, Child Soldiers, Disturbing Violent Imagery, Extreme Poverty

Chula and Petrona are two young girls struggling to grow up in a increasingly dangerous country. Chula and Petrona meet when Petrona is hired to be a maid for Chula's family. The novel is told through Petrona and Chula's point of view. They perspectives worked well, contrasting the very different thoughts and obstacles these young girls faced to survive childhood. The novel details their experiences and the political turmoil involved throughout Columbia in the 90's. The prose was engaging and the author was able to create complex and memorable characters.

We shall eat more and we shall eat less. What at dinner you have fire, for breakfast you'll have water. What is left for time, time will take away. It is only death that doesn't have a remedy.

Many disturbing and unsettling things happen to Chula and Petrona's family and the author does a good job of describing it from a child's point of view. While the characters were described masterfully the plot  did diverge and slow down in unexpected ways. As I was reading I kept hoping that it would all come together, but the ending wasn't that tidy. The diversity and unique voices in the book kept things flowing and me engaged. I learned more about Colombia and Pablo Escobar than I ever have before. Despite the slow parts of the book, I enjoyed it overall and will continue to look for more work by this author.

Multiply me when necessary,
make me disappear
when peremptory.
Transform me into light when there is shadow,
into a star
when in the dessert

Recommended for Readers who
- want to read a coming of age story that explores, race, class and Colombian History
- enjoy reading about characters dealing with serious trauma
- appreciate character driven stories

**I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. **
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