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Only the River

List Price: $26.00

May 5, 2020 | Hardcover | 6 x 9.1, 304 pages | ISBN 9781640093348
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A family displaced by World War II finds a new home in Central America, only to watch their fortunes rise and fall on the back of a revolution–from the California Book Award silver medalist and Simpson Literary Prize finalist.

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’s and Guillermo’s lives diverge, and Guillermo’s homeland slips into chaos. 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.

About Anne Raeff

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


Long-listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize

"Anne Raeff has created another richly memorable world in a complex mode . . . Through intricate interweavings of plot delivered in lean yet powerful, often poetic prose, Only the River ponders what the Germans call 'the unanswerable questions . . . about the difference between courage and cowardice, weakness and strength'--the moving riddles of human confrontation with atrocity and possible redemption. It offers, with open hands, a complicated feast: irreconcilable impasses of character and event; what we can and cannot control. Epic and cinematic, wrought and soulful, it is a deeply serious novel, yet full of tenderness . . . its traces will haunt a reader's heart and mind." --The Washington Post

"An expert storyteller, Raeff deftly draws readers into the worlds, however big or small, that her characters inhabit. And while Raeff's characters often differ in their motivation, what they all share is a desire for discovery of self and the world around them, ultimately showing how we're shaped by the experiences we endure and people we encounter." --Erica Flint, San Francisco Chronicle

"Engrossing . . . Raeff's seamless web artfully depicts the characters' will to survive and to fight for what they believe in. This heartfelt story of separation and confluence will move readers." --Publishers Weekly

"A haunting, intricately layered novel." --Kirkus Reviews

"This is an epic generational tale set against the backdrop of revolutionary war in Nicaragua . . . 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." --Booklist

"Anne Raeff is a master of the family novel, and of the diaspora novel, and of the novel that spans decades and continents. Is there nothing she can't do? With Only the River she gives us, in her trademark exquisite prose, the deeply moving story of two families joined and separated by a tiny patch of land in Nicaragua, a country as passionate and divided as the unforgettable characters who populate this marvelous book." --Ann Packer, author of The Children's Crusade

"In this novel, Anne Raeff weaves a multigenerational tale of love and war while at the same time casting a magic spell. Her authorial voice is incantatory. Characters and events caught in recent tragedies take on aspects of myth. The novel feels unique, timely, and yet timeless. I couldn't put it down." --Elizabeth Farnsworth, author of A Train Through Time

"Read Only The River as much for its lush, seductive prose as for its impressive historical and geographical sweep. Read it for its resonant depictions of the high costs of war, and for its ironic and surprising collisions of past and present. Anne Raeff's personal investment in these intersecting stories, and her love for each of her searching, unforgettable characters, comes through on every page. Just read it!" --Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

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