Only the River : A Novel
by Raeff, Anne

"Fleeing the ravages of wartime Vienna, Pepa and her family find safe harbor in the small town of El Castillo, on the banks of the San Juan River in Nicaragua. There her parents seek to eradicate Yellow Fever while Pepa falls under the spell of the jungle and the town's eccentric inhabitants. But Pepa's life - including her relationship with local boy Guillermo - comes to a halt when her family abruptly moves to New York, leaving the young girl disoriented and heartbroken. As the years pass, Pepa and Guillermo's lives diverge, as does the fate of Guillermo's homeland. Nicaragua soon becomes engulfed in revolutionary fervor as the Sandinista movement vies for the nation's soul. Guillermo's daughter transforms into an accidental revolutionary. Pepa's son defies his parents' wishes and joins the revolution in Nicaragua, only to disappear into the jungle. It will take decades before the fates of these two families converge again, revealing how love, grief, and passion are intertwined with a nation's destiny.Spanning generations and several wars, Only the River explores the way displacement both destroys two families and creates new ones, sparking a revolution that changes their lives in the most unexpected ways"-

ANNE RAEFF's short story collection, The Jungle Around Us, won the 2015 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, was a finalist for the California Book Award, and was named one of the 100 Best Books of 2016 by San Francisco Chronicle. Her novel Winter Kept Us Warm was awarded the California Book Award's Silver Medal in Fiction, was a finalist for the Simpson Literary Prize, and was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, ZYZZYVA, and Guernica, among other places. She lives in San Francisco with her wife, Lori, Juztice, and their two cats. Find out more at

Teenage Pepa and her family are forced to flee their home in Vienna during WWI in Raeff's (Winter Kept Us Warm, 2018) third work of fiction. They relocate to a small town called El Castillo in Nicaragua, and Pepa's parents, both doctors, make it their mission to eradicate yellow fever. Pepa and her younger brother are left alone for long stretches at a time and forced to fend for themselves. When Pepa meets Guillermo, the two become inseparable and quickly fall in love. Told through alternating voices, the story follows Pepa and her family as they move to New York. This is an epic generational tale set against the backdrop of revolutionary war in Nicaragua. Years later, Pepa and Guillermo find that their paths cross again after their own children become involved in the Sandinista movement sweeping the country with a vengeance. Filled with lyrical prose and lush descriptions of the setting (including Pepa's explorations of the jungle and its animal inhabitants), this is a thoughtful reflection on a family and its legacy. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

A Jewish family's escape from Nazi-occupied Austria to find refuge in Nicaragua in 1942 sets a young girl on a winding path of grief, creating a legacy of loss that spans decades and crosses continents. When 14-year-old Pepa finds refuge in the small village of El Castillo, where her parents, both doctors, have come to battle yellow fever, she falls into a romantic relationship with Guillermo, a local young man. Trauma holds Pepa in its oppressive grip, causing a paralysis in her after she finds out she's pregnant. Just as they secure visas to the United States, Pepa's parents discover her condition and decide to eliminate the problem themselves. It's when the family arrives in New York City that the book grounds itself, as if waking up from an ephemeral fever dream. This mirrors Pepa's emotional journey but also transforms Nicaragua into an almost imagined place, a more primitive location framed by an unintentional neocolonial viewpoint. Still mourning her life in El Castillo, Pepa leaves school to work at a Jewish paper, where she meets her future husband, Oskar, a concentration camp survivor. The narrative is told from alternating characters' viewpoints, with the ghost of Pepa and Oskar's son, William, slipping in and out. William, who went to Nicaragua in 1982 to fight with the Sandinistas despite having the barest familial link to the country, is reported to have died in his first battle. Liliana, Pepa's daughter, goes back to Nicaragua and El Castillo in present time after the harsh end of her long-term relationship. Guillermo and his own daughter, Federica, also tell their stories as Liliana and William float into their lives, altering them forever. A haunting, intricately layered novel, but the central characters' ties to Nicaragua ultimately lack a deeper believability. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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