About the Novel

Contemporary fiction with elements of mystery, romance, and an edge of magical realism.

“This is definitely a story that needs to be told; a clear and poignant example of the economic age that we live in, in which corporate profits are more important than human and environmental health and well-being.” Dr. Ann López, Director Center for Farmworker Families

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

 Fruit of the Devil delivers the flavors of Prodigal Summer and Tortilla Curtainwith nonfiction overtones of Erin Brockovich and a speculative edge evocative of the film Shape of Water.

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 and pesticides are drifting into the classrooms, 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 pesticide poisoning isn’t the only thing threatening the children’s safety. Aurora soon understands why farmworker children call strawberries 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 underbelly of California agriculture and tells a story of love, greed, murder, redemption.

A finalist in the 2014 Barbara Kingsolver PEN-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 everyday people transformed into passionate activists by an environmental threat to their community  . . . 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.”(unfortunately this article is temporarily unavailable)

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 copy edit. We look forward to seeing it in print and e-book soon.

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 by scrolling to the comment box at the bottom of all the pages and posts. We look forward to hearing from you!

19 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.

  10. Elaine Hebert

    Mary – thanks for the invitation to share thoughts here; I’ve been needing a place to express my thoughts about climate change and why we have deniers. Humans are affecting the climate because we are doing extreme things: we are taking enormous amounts of oil, coal, and natural gas out of the ground and combusting them. I believe that most of us [at least in the US] cannot fathom the magnitude of this; the human brain can’t grasp those large quantities. When so much carbon stuff is combusted, there’s no way it CAN’T affect the planet’s atmosphere and climate. I think this is why so many people deny climate change; they don’t understand the magnitude of what comes out of the ground and gets transported, processed, and burned. Couple this with people being generally intimidated by and fearful of science, and it’s disaster. The new President of France invites US scientists to come to France to continue studying and combatting climate change!

  11. Lily Lightridge

    I was most privileged to have the opportunity to immerse myself in this riveting novel. There are rare stories that surround you and pull you in as this novel did for me. I literally could not put it down. Mary’s gift for description of nature is so expressive and flowing that it was like watching a film, yet capturing the subtle smells . The characters are so alive that I immediately cared to know more of what could unfold.
    Mary touches on the most challenging and difficult issues of our time in ways that are truthful and compelling. At the same time the mystical quality enhances the experience so that we travel beyond the surface appearances . She contributes powerfully to awareness and with a compassionate eye to what is unfolding on so many levels at once. I feel enriched by this work. Thank you Mary for listening in your soulful way and being faithful and courageous in recording all of this. May this novel find its way to many eager hands and hearts.

    1. maryflo Post author

      Thank you so much, Lily, for being one of my “early readers”. It’s very exciting to put the manuscript in the hands of friends and to get their feedback. Writing this novel has been a long and sometimes discouraging process. I’m encouraged by your comments! Love, Mary

  12. Pingback: Pesticides Out of our Food Planet Watch Radio Podcast

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