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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.

Through many 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


Praise for Only The River

Long-listed for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize
Chicago Review of Books, 1 of 11 Must-Read Books of the Month

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

"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

"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 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

"Spellbinding." --Lou Fancher, Piedmont Exedra

"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

"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

"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

Praise for Winter Kept Us Warm

Winner of the California Book Awards Silver Medal in Fiction
Finalist for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction
Finalist for the 2019 Simpson Family Literary Prize

"Every word here feels set down with care and fierce conscience. The resulting narrative glows as if distilled . . . Winter Kept Us Warm is deeply concerned with what makes a family, with inevitable, unanswerable loss, with the intricacies of language and time; love and war, friendship, the life of art and the imagination, and always (borrowing from Yeats) the quest of the 'pilgrim soul.' In other words, just about everything that ever mattered. The novel's own quest is one in which we can happily lose--and find--ourselves." --San Francisco Chronicle

"In many ways, this is a novel about absence--the absence of those most harmed by the war; the emotional absence felt inside relationships, romantic or otherwise . . . It is about the choices people slide into almost by accident that end up shaping their lives, and how this becomes clear only with the wisdom of hindsight. This kind of drama is quiet and subtle, but Raeff knows how to wield her words in this space, and makes small pronouncements devastating . . . These characters are in the thick of their lives, and Raeff shows us their fullness in quick sketches, the way a skilled artist may convey movement and attitude with only a few penciled lines." --Los Angeles Times

"The novel is a profound success that manages to take its place in the canon of excellent war literature while also maintaining a kind of magical surreality . . . At moments, the narrative even veers into Gabriel García Márquez territory with its mastery of human complications and conditions, its holiness of unrequited love . . . This is an astounding read, a best-of, and a masterful treatise on enduring." --Lambda Literary

"Raeff writes brilliantly about characters that orbit each other for years on end, evolving and regressing in different corners of the world in ways that parallel their far-flung counterparts . . . In this author's nimble hands, the struggle for love, safety, and meaning feels palpable as the reader watches each character scour various routes toward those ends . . . Raeff's great achievement is having assembled a cast so recognizably flawed that it's easy to root empathetically for their contentment." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"An ambitious, multi-generational tale." --ZYZZYVA

"Raeff is a consummate storyteller, providing deep insight into her characters through her keen use of language and image. Depictions of places are similarly moving, both historically accurate and a vital part of the characters' story. Readers' emotions will run the gamut, rejoicing at quiet moments of happiness, and tearing up when tragedy strikes. These are characters--and choices--to think about long after finishing the last page." --Historical Novel Society

"Raeff creates a moving sense of the sweep of history." --The Mercury News

"There's elegance, insight, tenderness, and craft aplenty in this pensive, melancholy story."--Kirkus Reviews

"Raeff's (The Jungle Around Us, 2016) meditative novel effectively conveys the enduring trauma of war, the conflicting desires for stability and escape, and the need to connect." --Booklist

"Richly depicting emotional interiority of its characters, Raeff's novel reveals how the devastating effects of war and hidden secrets can impact lives across decades." --Publishers Weekly

"From the first night that Ulli, Leo, and Isaac meet, in a bar in Berlin the winter after the war, the reader is absorbed in their history and their fate. Raeff writes with vivid assurance about Berlin, America, and Morocco, about men and women, about love and work. As the boundaries between characters shift, as past and present converge, Winter Kept Us Warm casts a dazzling spell. A wonderful novel." --Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and Criminals

"A tale of an unusual love triangle spanning decades, Anne Raeff's Winter Kept Us Warm explores how war builds loyalties and tears them apart, how secrets destroy the best in us, and how a single lifetime isn't enough to make up for all we have lost. Beguiling, mesmerizing, touching, and smart, this novel will lure you back to page one to experience it all over again." --Michelle Hoover, author of Bottomland

"I loved this book. It's a book about history, about the world, about love and responsibility and being true--to others and to yourself--but like all good books it's really just about us, people, how hard it is to live, and how much joy there is in trying to. An astonishing and impressive book that illuminates and particularizes the twentieth century." --Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish

"Anne Raeff's extraordinary novel fills me with wonder: at the vivid textures of the different worlds she describes, whether it is a Moroccan wedding or a wintry Berlin apartment, at the complex emotional landscapes of her three main characters, and at the humanity and wisdom in her story. Through the flawed, deep love shared by Leo, Isaac, and Ulli, we learn of the pain of loss, the consolations of friendship, and the enduring, traumatic legacies of war. A haunting, indispensable novel." --Sylvia Brownrigg, author of Pages for Her

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