It took a moment for Fruit of the Drunken Tree to capture me.
It begins with Chula, a girl living with her financially comfortable family in Bogota. They hire a maid from the poor neighboring village named Petrona who is a few years older and a friendship begins.
This fictional story happens during the real-life height of Pablo Escobar’s power as a drug lord. In fact, much of the events were things that happened in the author’s own childhood. Regular car bombs, kidnapping, and murder made Colombia a very unsafe place to live, even more unsafe for a young girl.
Chula navigates this world through the sheltered eyes of someone protected, living in a gated community and insulated by family. These things that happen right outside the door remain outside the door; outside her actual reality. For Petrona, however, the realities of a community in Escobar’s clutches invades her home, her family, her heart.
In an interview on the podcast Skylight Books Author Reading Series, the author talks about surviving survival. Sure, you can get through something tough. But sometimes, getting through one horrific event isn’t enough.
There’s still heartbreak, still hardship, still a bleak future around the corner. Petrona’s story illustrates this , unfortunately. There seems to be no way out for her.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree took a moment to grab me. The stories of Chula and her sister and their love for crying dramatically, or the story of Ramon, sad but distant, didn’t quite take hold. It was the aftermath of surviving Ramon that started to get me.
It’s the surviving of survival.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Published July 2018