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Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Published: 2018-07-31
Hardcover : 320 pages
9 members reading this now
14 clubs reading this now
1 member has read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
“One of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time...Readers of Fruit of the Drunken Tree will surely be transformed.”
--San Francisco Chronicle


“Simultaneously propulsive and poetic, reminiscent of Isabel Allende...Listen to this new author’s voice — ...
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Introduction

“One of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time...Readers of Fruit of the Drunken Tree will surely be transformed.”
--San Francisco Chronicle


“Simultaneously propulsive and poetic, reminiscent of Isabel Allende...Listen to this new author’s voice — she has something powerful to say.”
--Entertainment Weekly

A mesmerizing debut set in Colombia at the height Pablo Escobar's violent reign about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both

Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, 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 inextricably linked coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras has written a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of August 2018: While this autobiographically-inspired novel vividly summons the turmoil of 1990s Colombia, it’s more a story of private intimacies than national history. Nine-year-old Chula Santiago becomes obsessed with her family’s new housekeeper, Petrona, a 13-year-old of few words who lives far from Chula’s comfortable neighborhood. Chapters told from Petrona’s perspective offer a glimpse into a mirror-world of Bogotá where breakfast varies based on what soda she pours over stale bread for her many siblings. What starts as a lyrical domestic portrait turns increasingly tense as we’re forced to chart the collision course between two sweetnesses in Petrona’s life: her first boyfriend, and her growing closeness to the Santiago family. The civil war underway shimmers menacingly within the perspectives of both narrators: there’s an assassination, a car bombing at a mall, and of course the infamous Escobar manhunt that breathes a narco-haze over the country. There’s magical realism here, but it’s not García Márquez’s; it vines up from the distortions introduced by childhood: the naiveté, overheard adult conversations, the wildness of unsupervised outdoor play during the apagones (electricity rationing), and the lead blanket of first promises. --Katy Ball

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. The Fruit of the Drunken Tree shifts between the perspectives of Chula and Petrona. How do the dual perspectives impact your reading of the novel? What would be lost without Chula’s perspective? Without Petrona’s?

2. During most of the novel, Chula narrates Fruit of the Drunken Tree as a child. How did the child narration effect your reading experience? Did you enjoy that perspective?

3. The author does a great job of showing the many sides to a story, and develops each character fully. With which character did you sympathize the most? The least?

4. When Chula is brought back to her mother after the kidnapping attempt, she doesn’t understand her mother’s anger and protests “but [Petrona] brought me back.” Who do you side with? Do you think Petrona deserves forgiveness?

5. Did you understand Petrona’s final decision to stay with Gorriòn? Were you surprised to learn that she married him? Why?

6. The symbol of the drunken tree figures heavily into the novel. How does Ingrid use this symbol? What is its significance?

7. There are many mentions of supernatural elements (witches, ghosts, tarot cards) in Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Why do you think the author included them? And what do they add to your reading experience?

8. What did you know about Colombia before reading this novel? Did the book change your perspective?

9. At the end of the novel, you find out that much of the story is based off of experiences from the author’s life. Did you know it was autofiction? If not, how did that knowledge add to your overall reading of the book?

10. Each character in the novel copes with trauma in a different way. How do their strategies compare to one another? How do you imagine you would react to a similar experience?

11. Did Chula’s experience immigrating to the US impact your understanding of refugees and immigrants? Do you feel that you have more empathy after reading it?

12. What do you envision happens to the characters after the book ends?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by KRoby (see profile) 04/28/20

 
by LER (see profile) 05/05/19

The author did an excellent job of portraying the humanity, the difference and the commonalities of a different classes found in Colombian society The people were not perfect and the way they faced life... (read more)

 
by eyesnsee (see profile) 01/07/19

 
  "Heartbreaking, powerful story based on the author's life in Colombia."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 08/19/18

One thought came to my mind when turning the last page. Could this really be based on a true story? There was so much evil between the pages of this heartbreaking novel. It was like there w... (read more)

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