... Raeff has created another richly memorable world in a complex mode — crisscrossing time and swaths of history, exploring one family’s intertwined impulses to find love, political drama and meaning. Like its predecessor, Only the River draws us in at once with the quiet authority of its voice, promising to guide us with clarity and care ... multiple voices speak here, expertly mobilized ... One of Raeff’s signal strengths is to ground and immerse readers in the sensuous present of any era, in each setting’s vibrant textures and temperatures, however extreme ... One of many reasons Raeff’s work is so deeply pleasurable is the gripping concreteness of her characters’ bodies and natures ... 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...makes its own soft, steady music, and its traces will haunt a reader’s heart and mind.
... 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.