In 1990s Columbia, Pablo Escobar, drug lord, reigns through violence and cleverness as the police struggle to apprehend him. Violence and drugs are everywhere, and the threat of kidnapping by guerrillas looms over daily life.
Seven-year-old Chula and her sister, Cassandra, lead a mostly-sheltered life in their gated community, but sometimes outside events encroach on their happiness. Then Petrona comes to be their live-in maid. Petrona is from the slums, where the guerillas are, and she’s desperate to provide for her family, willing to do anything to keep them safe.
Chula and Petrona form an unlikely bond, as Chula struggles to unravel Petrona’s secrets, while Petrona fights to keep the darkness in her life from destroying everything that’s beautiful.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is told in the alternating viewpoints of Chula and Petrona. It was a little bit slow to get going, but then I found myself engrossed in the vibrant culture of Bogota. The differences between Chula’s life and Petrona’s were startling, and sad, but the girls’ friendship was uplifting.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras is an award-winning author and a teacher. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is her new novel.
(Galley provided by Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review.)