This extremely personal story had me fully absorbed from the very beginning. I was unaware of the extreme brutality and uncertainty many Columbians faced in the era of Pablo Escobar, and many still face today. Enthralled by this story of fear, class, violence, and family – I didn’t realize until the very end that the book was semi-autobiographical and it just broke my heart for Contreras and her family.
The story is told between two young girls: Chula, 7 years old, (although told from a much later time in life) wants for nothing, she lives comfortably with her parents and older sister – unaware of the struggles others in Columbia face – poverty, fear, gang violence – just to name a few. And also of Petrona, from the “hills”, poor, struggling, while being just a teenager, already her families sole-provider as a live-in maid for Chula’s.
Chula is obsessed by Petrona, her demeanor, her quietness which translates to her as a type of regalness. But it’s ruggedness, fear, lack of trust and closed-off-ness that haunts Petrona. Chula’s ignorance of the world beyond her own four walls, and her safe gated community, is staggered with snippets of childish curiosity – an out-of-hand rally-type parade, radio and tv news, rumors… until one day, tragedy strikes one of her own, and the juxtaposition between these two girls families becomes closer than she ever imagined.
You feel for everyone in this world of anxiety – no matter what the class, or family, or living situation. Chula has this intense curiosity of Escobar and his reign of terror, and even plays Barbies in fictional gang type situations – missing legs and arms, presumably maimed by guerillas. She knows she is supposed to fear these peopel, and wonders if it will ever affect her. Until it does. Petrona unfortunately has has no choice, she was born into this fear, and it’s all so real to her already at such a young age. Chula is taught to hate and fear Escobar, while Petrona’s family see him as a man-of-the-people, just born on the wrong side, like her.
Lots of feels throughout this one. I shame myself for the ignorance I had regarding the way things have been in these conflicted areas and still are. I applaud any author who has the courage to dredge up such painful real memories and share them with the world – if not for peace or closure, but for education and awareness. And I believe Contreras has done all of that, and given us a beautiful story in the process to treasure.
You can read it too – on Amazon here —> Fruit of the Drunken Tree
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1st Edition edition (July 31, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385542720
- ISBN-13: 978-0385542722