Book Review: The Forgetting River – Doreen Carvajal

Title: The Forgetting River
Author: Doreen Carvajal
ISBN: 9781594487392
Pages: 320
Release Date: August 16, 2012
Publisher: Riverhead
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction, Travel
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Doreen Carvajal is a journalist who was born and raised Catholic, so she’s surprised to discover her family may be connected to conversos, Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Intrigued by this lost piece of personal history, Carvajal travels to a small city in Southern Spain to try and uncover her family’s true heritage.

Review:

The Forgetting River is part travelogue, part history, and part memoir. Carvajal frames the book as her search for her family’s roots, but it’s more than that. It’s not just about what Carvajal is looking for and what she learns; instead, it’s about the journey, the sights, smells, and sounds that Carvajal experiences. The stories she hears while traveling. The author brings her journey to life for the reader with vivid descriptions as she investigates the lingering effects of the Inquisition on Spanish culture.

Carvajal’s writing really makes The Forgetting River worth reading. It’s absolutely gorgeous; she takes her time with her details and ensures that the reader can picture the narrative vividly in their head. Her words soothe the soul, flowing beautifully; it’s clear that writing is a balm that gets her through her more difficult discoveries. It’s wonderful to be able to share that with the author, especially because she relates it so beautifully.

Where The Forgetting River is difficult, though, is in its structure. It doesn’t really have narrative cohesiveness, instead it comes across as a series of vignettes. They jump across time and continents and are almost a series of linked essays, rather than a single thread of narration. It can be frustrating to read at times, especially for readers who were initially drawn to the book because of its detective-esque premise. This is a slow read, and Carvajal takes her time with her search. It makes for a contemplative read which, as I’ve said previously, is more about the journey than the destination.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful book about the connections among family, history, culture, and religion, this is a great choice. It’s not amazingly fast moving, but readers who enjoy a slower pace will fall into Carvajal’s beautiful writing style and wonderful descriptions. If you’re looking for a change of pace with your book club, Carvajal’s thoughts and observations would make for a great discussion.

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Comments

  1. I do enjoy a slower pace sometimes…I like to savor some books, especially ones that are described as a “thoughtful book about the connections among family, history, culture, and religion.” To me, those kind of books should be read thoughtfully :) Enjoyed your review :)

  2. I do enjoy a slower pace sometimes…I like to savor some books, especially ones that are described as a “thoughtful book about the connections among family, history, culture, and religion.” To me, those kind of books should be read thoughtfully :) Enjoyed your review :)

  3. I am not sure about the lack of cohesiveness. That kind of bothers me in some of the books that I read, and I have given negative reviews to books that were otherwise wonderful, but lacked that element. I will have to grab this one and give it a go at the library and see what I think of it. It might be a hit, or a big miss for me. Thanks for being so honest in your review today. You did a great job with it.

  4. I am not sure about the lack of cohesiveness. That kind of bothers me in some of the books that I read, and I have given negative reviews to books that were otherwise wonderful, but lacked that element. I will have to grab this one and give it a go at the library and see what I think of it. It might be a hit, or a big miss for me. Thanks for being so honest in your review today. You did a great job with it.

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