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Reviews of Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

Properties of Thirst

by Marianne Wiggins

Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins X
Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 544 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2023, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Unfortunately, the publisher was unable to provide an excerpt from this book.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In 2016, when she was 80% finished with this novel, Wiggins suffered a stroke that left her unable to read or write. Her daughter, Lara Porzak, worked tirelessly with her to help complete the work. Her hand is undetectable — the prose is wonderful, start to finish — but the ending leaves a number of plotlines hanging. Properties of Thirst is a worthy addition to Wiggins' canon, perhaps her best work to date. It's a big, beautiful epic that deserves wide readership, and I highly recommend it to audiences looking for first-rate literary fiction...continued

Full Review (805 words)

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
Masterful...Readers won't be able to look away. Wiggins' characters are raw and honest... [her] writing, which can be fragmented or polished depending on the page, opens up microscopic universes and sprawling landscapes alike. It's a joy to read.

The Millions
Wiggins's wordplay is stellar...the dialogue is full of grit, and Wiggins manages to capture a big swath of mid-century America by placing a blue-blooded family into a desert inland complete with adobe haciendas, desert blooms, and Hollywood movie sets...Wiggins's masterpiece is one for the ages.

Town & Country
A sweeping, affecting story about family, property, and the soul of America might sound ambitious, but it's carried off with seeming ease by Marianne Wiggins, the award-winning author of Evidence of Things Unseen. This new novel follows a 1940s California family whose closely guarded land gets an unexpected neighbor when an internment camp is set to be built nearby, and examines love, loss, and what it truly means to be at home.

USA Today
Legitimately great…. This is a big, bold book, generous of spirit and packed with prose that gleefully breaks the rules…. It speaks to the heart as well as the head, and conjures characters to whom you won't want to say goodbye.

Booklist (starred review)
[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.

Kirkus (starred review)
A sweeping, cinematic story of love and family set against the dramatic backdrop of World War II and the American West...What makes the novel soar is the way Wiggins can evoke landscapes both interior and exterior, especially the expansive valley that has come to exemplify America's best qualities—and its worst. This majestic novel will satisfy those thirsting for an epic saga of love, family, and the complexities of the American way.

Library Journal (starred review)
In lush language, Wiggins evokes a keen sense of history and its life altering effects, a righteous frustration with government deception, and faith in the power of love to quench one's deepest thirsts.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Wiggins manages to capture a big swath of mid-century America by placing a blue-blooded family into a desert inland complete with adobe haciendas, desert blooms, and Hollywood movie sets, while throughout, the Rhodes hold out hope for Stryker's survival. Wiggins's masterpiece is one for the ages.

Author Blurb Gail Tsukiyama, bestselling author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai's Garden
[A] rich and powerful portrayal of love, loss, and the enduring strength of family. A novel to be read and savored.

Author Blurb Marisa Silver, author of The Mysteries, and Mary Coin
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.

Author Blurb Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
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.

Reader Reviews

Elizabeth

A 10 - Excellent more than just very good
The writing is lyical, sometimes astonishing, especially to those of us who are familiar with the area as it is now. Also, to those of us who have suffered the breathless loss of a child. If it takes you a bit to get into this book, persevere. The...   Read More
Arthur

Bodies of water
Reminiscent of Walter Stegner which is no faint praise.. "You can't save what you don't love". I'll be saving this to memory.

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Beyond the Book

The Los Angeles Aqueduct

Black and white photo of the opening of the LA Aqueduct in 1913In Marianne Wiggins' novel, Properties of Thirst, one of the main characters is in an ongoing battle with the Los Angeles Department of Water over their aqueduct installation in California's Owens Valley.

Los Angeles was officially founded on September 4, 1781 as part of Spain's colonization of California. As the town grew so did its water needs, and over time a series of canals and reservoirs were built to take advantage of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. By the end of the 19th century, however, it was becoming clear that the existing water supply would be insufficient to support the burgeoning population.

The water system had been managed by a private corporation, the Los Angeles City Water Company, with William ...

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