In this mesmerizing debut set against the backdrop of the devastating violence of 1990's Colombia, a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid 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 odd 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 a sense of 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.
A coming of age story, an immigrant story, a thrilling mystery novel, thoroughly lived and felt—this is an exciting debut novel that showcases a writer already in full command of her powers. Make room on your shelves for a writer whose impressive debut promises many more.
–Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s gripping debut explores a complex and destructive friendship against the background of Colombia’s political violence. As terror creeps over the walls of Chula’s gated neighborhood, the girls discover that betrayal and sacrifice are sometimes indistinguishable. Like the fragrant drunken tree that so discomfits Chula’s neighbors, this beautiful novel draws the reader under its treacherous, intoxicating spell.
—Kristin Valdez Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas
When women tell stories, they are finally at the center of the page. When women of color write history, we see the world as we have never seen it before. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras honors the lives of girls who witness war. Brava! I was swept up by this story.
–Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
Set against the backdrop of Pablo Escobar’s stranglehold on the fate of a nation, Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a spellbinding story of two girls whose realities collide and who are forced to make nearly unbearable choices in the name of survival. The thrum of mystery and danger haunts every page, and you won’t be able to look away until you turn the last one.
–Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
A dazzling and heart-stopping portrait of the intimacy of violence, how a nation’s wounds tear into families and betray its most innocent citizens. Fruit of the Drunken Tree pulses with reckoning, rebellion, and raw beauty. Rojas Contreras is a thrilling and brave new talent, and it will be a long time before Chula’s and Petrona’s voices leave me.
–Patricia Engel, author of The Veins of the Ocean