Note: This title was received free by Top Shelf Text in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!
I will admit, I was intimidated when picking up this book. It received high praise from early readers, and it was obviously heavy in content. Those two factors made for a lot of trepidation on my part, something I've been experiencing this year with all of the biggest releases. Sometimes, the hype for a book can overshadow the story. In this instance, Fruit of the Drunken Tree proved itself to be worthy of a top spot on my summer reading list.
The story follows a family and their maid, living in Columbia at the height of drug lord Pablo Escobar's power. Told in alternating perspectives of the seven-year-old daughter and the maid, the reader witnesses firsthand the physical and emotional destruction of the various para-military groups. I won't go too far into detail, because I think the heavy subject requires an immersive reading experience, but I will point readers to the author's note. This novel belongs to the own voices category, meaning that the author wrote this having experienced something similar herself.
Like many books with alternating perspectives, I was a bit more invested in one voice over the other. I wished that the chapters from the maid's perspective had been lengthier or more fleshed out -- hers was the story line I was most interested in. However, I saw the point that the author was making in keeping her somewhat removed and mysterious. The other perspective, that of a child, made for a more accessible reading experience on my end. As the child learned more about the political situation and came to realize the dangers threatening her family, I was able to orient myself so that I could follow along. Aside from having seen a few episodes of Narcos, I had very little background knowledge on this time period and on Columbian culture. Not only was this book raw and incredibly moving, it also taught me about the setting and piqued my interest for fiction set in South America.
Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5
Giveaway with Doubleday Books
I'm giving away one copy of this book to a TST reader! Make sure to enter on Instagram. Giveaway is for US entries only and closes 8/12 at 5pm ET.