Book Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree

This was such a thrilling and addictive book. Though I’d say it’s medium-paced, rather than fast-paced, there’s always something happening that keeps you glued to its pages. For me, it’s greatest accomplishment is how accurately Rojas Contreras described an era, the tense environment and how society normalizes violence in order to be able to survive.

I’m not Colombian, but my hometown in Mexico went through a somehow similar experience during those same years. I am roughly the same age as Rojas, so I also witnessed them through the eyes of a little girl. Car bombs, beheadings, kidnappings. Shootings in malls, restaurants. A little baby girl was killed one block from my home when an armed motorcyclist with an AK-47 tried to execute her dad as he was pulling out of the garage. For Rojas, it was Pablo Escobar.. for us, the characters of Narcos Mexico. Colombia mourned Galán, we mourned Colosio, handsome presidential candidates who were tasked with changing our countries for the best. Shattered dreams, lost opportunities.

Rojas, in this autobiographical fiction, tells us about two girls joined by an unusual friendship that will change their lives. Chula, the youngest in an upper middle-class Colombian family; Petrona, a teenage maid working at her place. Both will endure violence in different ways that will mark their bodies and minds forever.

I really enjoyed this story. If you were thinking of reading American Dirt for the thrill, you can do better. Read this instead. A real-life, well written story about survival, displacement, drug violence and friendship. All of the good stuff, and no plagiarism or racist stereotypes.

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