Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras is the story of a young girl, Chula, and her family living in Columbia, along with their maid, Petrona. The story of their lives living in a very turbulent Columbia during the time of drug lord, Pablo Escobar and constant guerrilla terror is told in the perspectives of Chula and Petrona. Chula and her family live in a home in a gated community, Chula’s Father has a job, she goes to school, she has a supportive mother and sister. Petrona has lost her father and many of her brothers. She is the sole supporter for her family who live in poverty and includes a sick mother and several young siblings. Through the two perspectives we see how the lives of those with money and those in poverty were different and yet also the same during difficult circumstances such as car bombings, recruitments to gangs or guerrilla organizations, murders, kidnappings and betrayals.
For me the setting of Columbia was a huge part of this book. There was much I learned about Columbia and I did more research on Columbia while reading this book. The events spoken of in the book are actual events. The author grew up in Columbia and experienced many of the things spoken of and I think that is what made so many of the details of Columbia and these events seem so real to me. The writing was descriptive enough for me to get a complete picture but not so descriptive that the characters became lost.
I really loved the character of Chula and as the story of her life unfolds we see how Columbia not only made her into the person she is by the end of the story but we understand why that is. I did sometimes struggle with the differences in how Petrona was portrayed in Chula’s narration and then when Petrona narrated. She didn’t always seem like the same person but that might have been done on purpose to show that Chula did not know everything about the family maid.
I really enjoyed this book about fear, love, guilt, and survival. It helped me to understand people who live in a dangerous country and the things that they go through every day.
My copy of Fruit of the Drunken Tree was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.