Fruit of the Drunken Tree was inspired by author Ingrid Rose Contreras’ experiences in Colombia, South America, from 1989 – 1994 during the reign of drug lord Pablo Escobar. Reviews for the book include “simple but memorable prose and absorbing story line” (NY Times Book Review), “dazzling and devastating” (San Francisco Chronicle), “simultaneously propulsive and poetic” (Entertainment Weekly), “politically daring and passionately written” (Vogue), “a seemingly unlimited reservoir of striking details” (Booklist).1 I was concerned that the book might be a little too devastating, a little too timely and political; I had been warned that another library book club had universally disliked the book, or as our multi-book clubber member said: “it wasn’t hated, it just wasn’t a favorite.”
We had a good attendance for our meeting. Out of fifteen, only two of us hadn’t read it. Our first responders seemed to like the book – not gushing as many had for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane or The Rosie Project, but reflective and thoughtful. Our discussion was personal. We remembered the hardships of our parents and grandparents. We shared our own experiences with domestic abuse. We wondered how we could ever leave the house with such reality of kidnapping and violence outside our doors. We wondered about the impact of media that keeps violence in front of us, whether or not it is even in our community. We compared it to other book club selections: the drought in The Dry, the potato famine in News of the World, American complicity in The Lost City of the Monkey God.
Some of us were disappointed in missing details. We considered the young narrators and how their innocence heightened our sense of fear and dread. We discussed more details than I remember. Were the characters fully developed? We didn’t understand the mother’s behavior entirely. Did we prefer Chula or Petrona as a narrator? Gorrión seemed to truly love Petrona, but still he allowed her to be brutally raped. Can and should we ever be forgiven for our mistakes? There was so much we could have discussed. Layers and layers.
We reviewed a list of some of the many books we have read together over the years. We chatted and snacked and discussed the Sacred Datura plant that grows wild in Southern Nevada and is related to the Drunken Tree used for the title – another shared experience through a book!
1 Litlovers.com website offers summaries, author bios, and reviews from various sources, discussion questions and more. I often refer to their popular book list for ideas and we have read several books on their lists.
Lundquist, M. (n.d.). Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Contreras) – Book Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/fiction/11333-fruit-of-drunken-tree-contreras?start=2