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Properties of Thirst


About The Book

Fifteen years after the publication of Evidence of Things Unseen, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins returns with a novel destined to be an American classic: a sweeping masterwork set during World War II about the meaning of family and the limitations of the American Dream.

Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes has spent years fiercely protecting his California ranch from the LA Water Corporation. It is here where he and his beloved wife Lou raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, and it is here where Rocky has mourned Lou in the years since her death.

As Sunny and Stryker reach the cusp of adulthood, the country teeters on the brink of war. Stryker decides to join the fight, deploying to Pearl Harbor not long before the bombs strike. Soon, Rocky and his family find themselves facing yet another incomprehensible tragedy.

Rocky is determined to protect his remaining family and the land where they’ve loved and lost so much. But when the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch, Rocky realizes that the land faces even bigger threats than the LA watermen he’s battled for years. Complicating matters is the fact that the idealistic Department of the Interior man assigned to build the camp, who only begins to understand the horror of his task after it may be too late, becomes infatuated with Sunny and entangled with the Rhodes family.

Properties of Thirst is a novel that is both universal and intimate. It is the story of a changing American landscape and an examination of one of the darkest periods in this country’s past, told through the stories of the individual loves and losses that weave together to form the fabric of our shared history. Ultimately, it is an unflinching distillation of our nation’s essence—and a celebration of the bonds of love and family that persist against all odds.

About The Author

Lara Porzak

Marianne Wiggins is the author of eight novels including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. She has won a Whiting Award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Heidinger Kafka Prize, and was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. She lives in Venice, California. 

Why We Love It

“I was lucky enough to inherit Properties of Thirst, and when I first saw the size of the bound manuscript arrived in the mail, I thought it would take me a long time to read. But I read it in just two (long) sittings, almost holding my breath the entire time. From the very first pages, I knew that everything I’d heard about Marianne Wiggins was true, and that I was in the hands of a master. She has such command of language—but isn’t afraid to be playful, too!—and her characters, and their longings and losses and all-consuming loves just breathe with so much life. These are characters who go against the grain, who aren’t afraid to fight for what they believe in or for the people they love. By the end of Properties of Thirst, they felt like family to me.”

—Carina G., Senior Editor, on Properties of Thirst

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 2, 2022)
  • Length: 544 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416571261

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Raves and Reviews

"This magnificent novel opens every little nerve of language and sends jolts of electricity along the spine. It's a love story, and a family tale, and a song of history. It's about shame and loss and recovery and beauty. It's a novel to cherish, composed with great humanity and humour."–Colum McCann 

“A changing American landscape is beautifully portrayed in PROPERTIES OF THIRST, a moving and gripping new novel by Marianne Wiggins.  At the start of World War II, while Japanese families are relocated to Manzanar, the Rhodes family, who live on a ranch near the camp are equally uprooted by memories and circumstances.  What follows is a rich and powerful portrayal of love, loss, and the enduring strength of family.  A novel to be read and savored.”—Gail Tsukiyama, bestselling author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai’s Garden

"This is a novel I wish I could have written. Keen, unsparing, and compassionate, Properties of Thirst reveals a world and a history I thought I knew, in language so beautiful, it took my breath away. Vividly alive, these characters mirror our present moment, our complex ties to this land and to each other, our most profound alienations and our fiercest loves."–Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

"'Properties of Thirst' is a graceful and arresting meditation on the dark nature of greed and desire in the face of dwindling natural resources and pernicious xenophobia.  It is impossible to read this novel and ignore the fact that the unscrupulous choices we've made in the past are the ones we're still making, ones that, if we're not able to look at ourselves with the moral clarity Wiggins brings to her fiction, we will continue to make."–Marisa Silver, author of The Mysteries, and Mary Coin

“Wiggins is a writer of substantial gifts.”–The New York Times Book Review

"A rich historical fiction centered on a Southern California ranch family circa WWII and shot through with shades of Chinatown." –Entertainment Weekly

"Marianne Wiggins does not so much tell a story as make her reader live it...She renews our sense of what prose fiction can do."–The Sunday Times (London)

Wiggins' power is disjunctive, disruptive; she pounds the atoms of discourse until they split and go radioactive.” – Los Angeles Times Book Review 

“Marianne Wiggins dares to make fictions that stand in the face of heart-cracking circumstance, fictions that, in fact, resound with hearts shattering.”– The Washington Post Book World 

“[a] grand novel of principled and creative individuals caught in the vise of history… Loss, desire, moral dilemmas, reflection, and zesty dialogue with the do-good energy of Frank Capra films generate a WWII home front tale of profound and far-ranging inquiry and imagination, scintillating humor, intrepid romance, and conscience.”—Booklist

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