Fruit of the Drunken Treeby Published 31 Jul 2018
|Fruit of the Drunken Tree.pdf|
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.
"Fruit of the Drunken Tree" Reviews
This novel attempts to do what the Colombian author Vasquez did in his novel, 'The Sound of Things Falling'. He examined the cultural state of what he perceived as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Colombia resulting from the drug trafficking, kidnappings, and overall chaos. In Contreras's novel, 'Fruit of the Drunken Tree' she, too, places her book in 1990's Colombia and views the world of Bogota from the eyes of a young girl, a young girl who has witnessed trauma and often wonders what death is.
Chula, the protagonist, is seven years old, and lives with her older sister and mother in a gated community in Bogota. Their father works away from home and returns approximately bi-weekly. They have a hired maid named Petrona, 13 years old, who lives in the slums of the city and feels responsible for the care of her mother and siblings,
Chula becomes fascinated with Petrona and sees herself as her allie. Little does Chula realize that their worlds are so far apart. Chula is an entitled and spoiled girl while Petrona is already sexually active and "struggles to survive in the otherworldly slum built on mountains of orange dirt". Chula goes to private school while Petrona had to quit school in third grade.
Chula witnesses the assassination of Gorion, a presidential candidate and becomes both fascinated and terrified of death, along with the horrors wrought by Pablo Escobar. The novel talks about the military, para-military, narco-traffickers, FARQ, and guerillas. I wasn't sure what each group was or what they represented. It occurred to me that many Colombians were also confused
This book is based on the author's own life and I really wanted to like it more. I feel very connected to Colombia through family and visits there. However, I found the novel disconnected without a lot of depth. While it appeared to aim for magical realism, it fell short. The character development was shallow and I did not feel that I really knew any of them well.
This was a great book! I'm an advocate for diverse literature but I do understand I do not read many books about the Hispanic / Latin American community. This is the second book I read that is written by a Colombian author. I loved the strong female characters in this book enjoyed the writing. I wish there was a bit more explanation about the historical events. Having little knowledge of Colombia and its history, it was a bit difficult to understand the turmoil. I did have to Google to gain better understanding of that time period. Overall, it was a good book. I thirst for more books that take place in Latin America. Thank you!
https://booksensationlife.wordpress.c... full review on my blog. I cannot wait for this novel to come out. I will definitely be adding this to my library.
This book was equal parts heart wrenching and beautiful. The writing in this book has been compared to the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I would absolutely agree with that comparison. My parents are Colombian and I have visited Colombia several times, although not recently. Her descriptions brought back so many memories for me and I was astonished by how wonderful her descriptions were. Despite my heritage, I am unfamiliar with Colombian history. I still found it easy to follow the plot even though I wasn't entirely aware of the political environment. I found that not knowing made my understanding of the events similar to that of the young main character who is a child at the time of these events. My point is that whether or not you know about the events that took place at this time, this book is easy to follow and very informative. This is an exceptional piece of literature. I can't say enough good things about this book. Just read it.
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a compelling and evocative coming-of-age story set in the violence and upheaval of 1990's Bogota Colombia. Rich with culture and metaphor, the story is told through the distinctive voices of a young girl and the teenage maid who works for her family. Woven through the narrative are strong themes of family, identity, and trauma. An impressive debut!
Chula is 7 years old when the story begins. She is stubborn and curious, but has been sheltered as much as possible by her comfortably wealthy family. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Petrona, the new 13 year old maid. From the beginning the disparity in their lives is striking, with Petrona's family living in abject poverty. And yet, both girls face violence, political instability, and challenges in their families. They are drawn together even as their worlds become more chaotic and they are forced to make impossible decisions between allegiances.
The bulk of the narrative is told through Chula's point of view and the author does a great job of interpreting difficult events and conflicts through the eyes of a child. Chula doesn't understand everything happening around her, but we see her comprehend and internalize a great deal. It's a peek into how children might experience traumatic events and how that trauma can shape their progression into adolescence. And we see that in multiple characters.
Inspired by the author's life and including some real historical events, this was also a lesson in the realities of life and politics in Colombia that I was not fully aware of. It's beautifully told, emotionally impactful, and at times filled with trauma that is difficult to swallow. It is ultimately a hopeful story, but with serious reservations. Because not everything can be fixed and these experiences can leave permanent scars of many kinds. This is going to stick with me and I definitely recommend it. I'll be looking to see more from this debut author! Thank you to Doubleday for sending me an advance copy for review. All opinions are my own.