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.
“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 humor.” —Colum McCann
“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
“Wiggins is a writer of substantial gifts.” —New York Times Book Review
“Wiggins’s power is disjunctive, disruptive; she pounds the atoms of discourse until they split and go radioactive.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“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.” —Sunday Times (London)
Marianne Wiggins is the author of several books of fiction including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and she has been a finalist for many awards, including the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.