A powerful memoir, The Forgetting River tells the moving story of the author’s quest to uncover her family’s secret heritage. Carvajal was raised to believe her family hailed from Costa Rica, and that their roots were deeply buried in the Latin American Catholic soil. But during her early adulthood, when she leaves her California home and moves first to New York, then to Paris, and finally to a tiny, centuries-old town in Andalucia in southern Spain, she begins to suspect that there is more to the story than she had been told. One clue at a time, she discovers that her true heritage is connected to Jewish Spain, and that her ancestors were forced to convert during the Spanish Reformation.
As she unravels the thread of her family history, she works with scientists to track her DNA and digs deep beneath the ancient beauty of whitewashed buildings to try to understand her own beginnings, finally satisfying the craving for belonging she has carried with her since childhood. As she begins to understand and accept her heritage, she gains the sense of place that has eluded her all her life.
Carvajal is a journalist who understands the nuance and beauty of travel writing. Combining this gift with this highly personal story, she creates a book that shimmers with enchantment, pulling the reader into her life with gentle tugs on the heartstrings. What she calls “hunting family ghosts” will resonate with anyone who has ever felt out of place where they were and dreamed of finding another heritage just one layer beneath the one they had always accepted as the bedrock of their self-definition.
Linda F. Burghardt is a New York-based journalist and author who has contributed commentary, breaking news, and features to major newspapers across the U.S., in addition to having three non-fiction books published. She writes frequently on Jewish topics and is now serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.