He put his lips up to my ear, as a child does when telling a secret. “You will hold their sadnesses in your hand,” he whispered. “But you must also be touching their land. Then you will tumble, and in your tumbling, you will find what you are looking for.”


The story of a fourteen-year-old girl who travels back in time, and across continents, encountering her maternal forbears when they were her age. From the Australian Outback, where she meets a young Aboriginal man, to racist, rigidly segregated South Africa during World War II, to the midst of a pogrom in Lithuania, and then all the way back to the Babylon of biblical times, Emily has deep encounters with the histories that have mysteriously and yet powerfully shaped her own soul.


This surprising and moving book tells a poignant coming of age story while magically sailing along down the long flow of generations through the centuries. We see everything as in a Chagall painting: dark, romantic, wild, familiar yet strange, tinged with tragedy, yet buoyant and filled with grace. Beautifully written and imagined, River brings us face to face with the real and powerful meaning of family history.

- Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo

River is a classic tale of longing—a quest story that takes its young heroine on a magical journey backwards through time and across the globe. As young Emily tumbles mysteriously from one decade to the next, from Brooklyn to Melbourne, from South Africa to Lithuania, she meets a long line of strong female ancestors, and witnesses their trials and triumphs at moments that send their lives in astonishing and unpredictable directions. If you've ever wondered what your mother or grandmother or great-grandmother went through when she was young, this richly-imagined story travels the river of time to a past that shows us who we are now.

- Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life

Eloquent and polished, with characters who breathe and speak as if they are in the same room as the reader, this fourth novel by Nayman (A Mind of Winter) would be a valuable choice for teen Jewish studies as well as for YA and adult book discussion groups. Highly recommended.

- Library Journal

p>In the luminescent River, Shira Nayman brilliantly imagines a fourteen-year-old girl who is magically haunted and invigorated by the beautiful and brutal history of the world. Nayman takes the reader from contemporary Brooklyn to the Australian Outback to Biblical times, investigating what the history of a family truly means and how it endures. A breathtaking read.

- Jennifer Gilmore, author of the YA novel If Only

Author Nayman has a remarkable gift for description which enables us to imagine that we are with her on her remarkable journey, seeing the sights that she sees, and learning Jewish history along the way.

- San Diego Jewish World

The book gives readers food for thought: if we knew why our relatives – particularly the ones we don’t like – became the way they are, would we feel more compassion or pity for them? Parents and their teens might find it interesting to read and discuss the lessons “River” offers.

- Off the Shelf