Although this debut novel is inspired by the author’s personal experiences (as noted in an afterword), you don’t need to have grown up in Bogotá to be taken in by Contreras’s simple but memorable prose and absorbing story line ... Contreras’s depiction of growing up amid such constant violence provides some of the most arresting passages in the book. I couldn’t help scribbling exclamation marks beside the descriptions of the games Chula and her sister play, in which unfortunate Barbies are brutally mutilated ... Tied in with Chula’s bewilderment about her homeland is her curiosity about Petrona [the family maid], whose sections are narrated with lovely simplicity and provide the heart of the book. There’s an elusiveness and obliqueness to Petrona’s narration, perhaps an acknowledgment of the difficulty of representing the voices of those who rarely get to speak for themselves in literary fiction ... In terms of structure, the plot is dependent on Chula’s family being consistently unlucky, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It works, though, to highlight the suffering that many Colombian families had to endure for generations.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is one of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time ... Rojas Contreras, in this vividly imagined and deeply researched book, renders in breathtaking specificity the humanity of each singular participant—whether perpetrator or bystander, betrayer or betrayed ... By the end of this unforgettable book, we understand that what these two young women have endured, both separately and together, will continue to haunt them, together and separately. Readers of Fruit of the Drunken Tree will surely be transformed by the imprints of the journeys Rojas Contreras’ characters undertake; their escape routes include flights of imagination as well as involuntary amnesia. In the best of fiction as in the worst of life, we are given the opportunity to empathize with the suffering of others and to find inspiration in the grace of their resilience.
Rojas Contreras's narrative presents a Colombia different from that portrayed in popular media, such as Netflix's Narcos. She does an excellent job of articulating the complicated political situation and illustrating the heartbreaking day-to-day reality for children ... A fascinating, poetic read from an up-and-coming author. For fans of literary fiction and libraries with immigrant communities