Updated: Jan 3, 2020
TITLE: Fruit of the Drunken Tree
AUTHOR: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
PUBLISHED DATE: July 31, 2018
*Hype Lit Book Club Selection
My thoughts on this book are bittersweet. While I appreciate that this story is a semi-autobiographical account of Contrera's life growing up in Colombia at the height of the drug trade, this book is subtly racist and colorist.
Chula is an 8-year-old girl barely starting to grasp the world around her when her mother hires Petrona, a 15-year-old girl from an impoverished family, to work as a maid/nanny in her home. Chula and her sister, Cassandra, have an interest in Petrona that borders on obsession. Distinctions in class are made as the story is told in the alternating voices of Chula and Petrona. Both girls describe the dismantling of their family due to political, guerrilla militia, and the narcotics trade. Petrona quickly sees that Chula's family is more well off than hers, and works with the guerrilla militia to set up members of the family to be kidnapped and held for ransom. Every black man mentioned was mean, angry, and violent...with notable descriptions of their noses.
The pacing of the plot is languid, and I found myself pushing my way through it. Thoughts on the book at the book club discussion were mixed. Some felt that there were plot holes, others saw the characters as unbelievable - all agreed that they learned something.
Recommendation: If you're interested in conflicts in Colombia, this is a good book to read for some context, but take it with a grain of salt.
Audience: This book is a Young Adult novel masquerading as Women's fiction.