About the Novel

geckoFruitcover5ThumbRecipe for FRUIT OF THE DEVIL: Mash together some strawberries and pesticides, a teacher, a priest, an ancient nature god, true love and wild sex, ghosts, Native Americans, migrant farmworkers, surfers, gang bangers, billionaire “ag” boys, and salmon. Stir it up in a National Marine Sanctuary. Serve with fine California wines. Season with murder, magic and mystery.

Contemporary fiction with elements of mystery, romance, and an edge of magical surrealism, Fruit of the Devil delivers the flavors of Prodigal Summer and Tortilla Curtain with nonfiction overtones of Erin Brockovich.

While getting her fourth grade classroom ready for Fall, Ms. Aurora Bourne begins to feel sick, and it’s more than back-to-school blues. Outside her windows next to the playground, strawberry fields have just been fumigated. Pesticides are drifting into the classrooms and causing serious health issues for students and teachers. When the teenage sister of a migrant student goes missing from the strawberry fields, it becomes clear that pesticides aren’t the only things threatening the children’s safety. Aurora soon understands why immigrant children at her school call strawberries La Fruta del Diablo, the Fruit of the Devil.

From the exclusive golf courses of Pebble Beach to the world famous surf breaks of Santa Cruz and the fertile lands of Steinbeck country, Fruit of the Devil uncovers the hidden side of California agriculture and tells a story of love, murder, greed, and redemption.

A finalist in the 2014 Barbara Kingsolver Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. 

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FRUIT OF THE DEVIL was inspired by a true David and Goliath story about corporations poisoning school children with pesticides, and the parents and teachers fighting to protect their children, their food and water, and a priceless natural environment. It’s the story of normal teachers and parents who were transformed into passionate environmental activists . . . and it’s not over yet! See the teachers’ Safe Ag Safe Schools website and SASS Facebook page for more. Methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting chemical, a potent greenhouse gas, and a deadly pesticide banned in the 90’s by the International Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the California Birth Defects Prevention Act, yet still used today on the strawberry fields of Central California, continues to be a hotly debated topic in the multi-million dollar world of California agriculture, Steinbeck country. The pesticides currently used in agricultural fields next to our schools have been linked to asthma, cancer, and autism spectrum disorders. Find out what’s in that beautiful strawberry before you take your next bite of the Fruit of the Devil and why it’s so urgent that we transition to a sustainable food system. For a recent in-depth report on the California strawberry industry, see the Center for Investigative Reporting article, “California’s Strawberry Industry is Hooked on Dangerous Pesticides”.

Are you involved in or concerned about an environmental or social justice issue in your community? Tell your story! We’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment here (in the comment box at the bottom of the page), or on any of the Wild Strawberries Blog Posts.

When Can I Read It?
The manuscript is now complete and in its final (maybe?) edit. We look forward to seeing it in print and e-book soon, so we can share this urgent story about sustainable food systems with everyone who loves their children and our precious Earth. I’m currently exploring mainstream publishing options.

Please help us share this story: Like and Share Fruit of the Devil by clicking on the social media buttons at the top and bottom of the page.  And tell you friends! You can also Like our Facebook page  and follow us on Twitter . You can Sign Up for Notifications or Send the Author a Comment in the boxes at the bottom of this page. We look forward to hearing from you!

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14 thoughts on “About the Novel

  1. Roger Keeling

    Hi Mary! I didn’t know you have a blog. Not that I’ll post very often because these days I’m doing all I can to stay OFF of the inter-tubes (that sucking sound you hear is all of your free time vanishing into the computer …). But, still, I’ll bookmark it and visit now and again anyhow. (Hope all’s well otherwise in S.C.).

  2. Chuck White

    I know about ERin Brokovich, but not the other two women, so part of your description was lost on me. Could you share more about the actual process of writing your story? In this blog, you give a great overview. At the same time, I would love hearing about the struggles/tricks/perservance you are going through, week by week. Would you consider sharing a particularly jolting sentence of paragraph? I like this one from Deepak Chopra: “One time a man died because of something I said to him.” appreciatively, Chuck

  3. Chuck White

    I like long novels. Perhaps I need to read your entire manuscript to give you more comprehensive feedback. All the technical/factual information you presented in the early chapters was excellent, yet too concentrated. It didn’t allow the story to breath. That’s why I was hesitant to say, “Cut this, trim that.” Since you have a deep feeling for the land, as do I, you might want to incorporate yourself more fully into one of the characters, have her be your voice. Then, instead of putting the emphasis on the ecological facts, you put real feeling into her FEELING FOR THE LAND, her deep concern about the way science/growers are toxifying the land, her concern about future generations.
    As for me, I am seeing a kind of “Mafiazation” of American society taking place, a distinct move toward the right, which technology fosters, accidentally perhaps. I see increasing subtle ways ofcheating taking place, incredible greed. A T & T is one example. I won’t go on.

  4. Claudia O'Reilly

    Hi Mary,
    I enjoyed meeting you and exchanging some ideas with you. I am very interested in reading your book.

    I would appreciate it if you could send me a chapter and an email address, and I
    will reciprocate.
    I look forward to seeing you at the next SVRWA meeting.

  5. Cheryl

    I can’t wait to read it!!! (I sure hope it has a happy ending… we live on the edge of those very fields.) Most in our neighborhood eat organic!

  6. Greg Reid

    Greetings from one of the West Cliff denizens. The sun should be setting over the water again soon, see you there for those magnificent sunsets and maybe even a green flash.


  7. Susan

    Hi Mary,
    It as great meeting you at the new Olive Connection in APTOS!! Hope to see you again sometime and I look forward to the launch of your book!!!

  8. Zay

    “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

  9. Kary Herman

    Hi Mary, I am a Watsonville “farm girl” who ate those recently sprayed fields. I have had breast cancer, my brother, sister and I have had other cancers as well as pre-colon cancers. My horse, “Queenie” died the day after eating lettuce recently sprayed in our neighbors field.

    So, were raised during spraying and never told when or when it was not safe to go sneak into the field and eat a fresh head of lettuce.

    Can’t wait to read it…. Signed A Watsonville Native, Kary Herman who is now your neighbor….

    1. maryflo Post author

      Thank you so much for the comment, Kary. It’s not at all easy to talk about these things. That’s probably part of why the pesticide companies can keep poisoning us – they bank on the fact that people don’t want to talk about what’s happening to them. But united together, we can fight this giant. Much love to you, heroic woman. Mary.


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