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Properties of Thirst

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A National Bestseller 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 A National Bestseller 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.


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A National Bestseller 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 A National Bestseller 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.

30 review for Properties of Thirst

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    There are such fully drawn characters and an in depth depiction of the time and place and events and the convergence of these characters with the events and with each other in this novel. I’ve been trying to think of a word to aptly describe it that hasn’t already been said about it. Its been called a future classic, sprawling, epic, multi layered. It’s all of those things . Trite as it may sound, all I could think of is big. It’s a big story, a big beautiful story. The kind of story with charac There are such fully drawn characters and an in depth depiction of the time and place and events and the convergence of these characters with the events and with each other in this novel. I’ve been trying to think of a word to aptly describe it that hasn’t already been said about it. Its been called a future classic, sprawling, epic, multi layered. It’s all of those things . Trite as it may sound, all I could think of is big. It’s a big story, a big beautiful story. The kind of story with characters that I wanted to know everything about, what made them tick, what happened in the past leading them to this present moment in wartime, what would happen to them moving forward. This is a story of a family, of place, of California in the 1940’s, of war, the internment of Japanese Americans, of loss, grief, the comfort of food, about water and land, about the goodness of people and as you might expect with a big beautiful story, there is love. It’s such a good work of historical fiction, and I’m sure it must already have been called that by someone. This is an extraordinary novel. I’m sure someone must have said that, too, but it deserves repeating. It’s not an easy read. It’s complex in it’s detailed writing, in the depth of its characters, in their complicated relationships, and I was emotionally connected every step of the way. My first but not last book by Marianne Wiggins. The day after I stared reading this book, the following article appeared in my email from Kirkus. A testament to the author for sure and her wonderful daughter, Lara Porzak who helped her mother who was recovering from a stroke finish this novel. She read and reread the novel to her mother to spark remembrance of her characters and their story, sifting through handwritten notes and talking to people who she might have discussed the book with. Amazing and moving. Porzak also relates the process in a note at the end. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/news-an... I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    This is the saga of the Rhodes family: historical in scope, multi-layered in narrative, and with characters that are richly drawn. Water rights, Japanese internment camps, love, loss, food, and music provide the skeleton of this exquisite and graceful novel. Another must-read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Crytzer Fry

    I was immediately interested in this book when I read the description concerning water rights and the protection of beloved California ranchland (as I sit smack-dab in the Arizona desert and parts of our state face water restrictions that seem, also, to cater to “the many vs. the few.” i.e., Ranchers/farmers in our county are being restricted while large cities in other counties have zero restrictions). “You can’t save what you don’t love” was a theme presented throughout this novel – a sentiment I was immediately interested in this book when I read the description concerning water rights and the protection of beloved California ranchland (as I sit smack-dab in the Arizona desert and parts of our state face water restrictions that seem, also, to cater to “the many vs. the few.” i.e., Ranchers/farmers in our county are being restricted while large cities in other counties have zero restrictions). “You can’t save what you don’t love” was a theme presented throughout this novel – a sentiment I’ve voiced many times regarding humans’ detachment from nature. In this novel, it becomes an expertly woven theme – related to land and relationships and humanity. Naturally, water images abound, and each section is presented with the various properties of thirst, eleven in all, including, among them, memory, desire, truth, reinvention, evaporation (brilliant)! Some of the liquidy imagery: …Here he could hear the water, he could see the water, the shadow of the water: ice on the mountains vapor in the clouds…. He had loved the land and had watched it parch and buckle, water trapped and stolen by … he didn’t even like to think the name. Los Angeles. I could relate to Rocky and his absolute adoration for the ruggedness of the area (and would hope to see Pierce Brosnan cast as him!). This novel tackles tough and tender issues simultaneously: love and loss, the corruption of large municipal entities, and the horrific reality of Japanese-American internment camps in America. It address moral consciousness and humanity, and pits it against greed and selfishness. The writing is dense and complex and uses a lot of unconventional grammatical and punctuation techniques, which may turn some readers off (lots of dashes and parentheses, stream of consciousness). And while I wholly enjoyed this story, I noted a kind of unevenness throughout that I couldn’t quite put my finger on – very lengthy soliloquies that needed paring down (for my tastes) and often-excessive descriptions that got in the way of the story (usually something I don’t mind). When I read the Afterword, I gained some clarity regarding my reaction. That said, the Afterword also erased any potential quibbles I might have had. (view spoiler)[When I learned the author had suffered a massive stroke when this book was still in draft stage, and read about the struggle her daughter went through to ensure it would be published, and then learned of the author’s struggle back to speech and sight and writing … I cried. The amount of work the editor, also, put in to coax the damaged-but-healing author’s words back from her… I appreciated it even more. (hide spoiler)] Many thanks to the publisher, Simon and Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eva Silverfine

    As in previous works, Wiggins explores historical events in the context of deeply imagined characters, in part bespeaking that the circumstances of our times can make—or break— who we are, what we become. Set in the Owens Valley of California as the United States enters WWII, the plot is centered around the “redistribution” of water resources from this rural community (the few) to Los Angeles (the many) and the creation of an internment camp for Japanese Americans. The story of the latter is tol As in previous works, Wiggins explores historical events in the context of deeply imagined characters, in part bespeaking that the circumstances of our times can make—or break— who we are, what we become. Set in the Owens Valley of California as the United States enters WWII, the plot is centered around the “redistribution” of water resources from this rural community (the few) to Los Angeles (the many) and the creation of an internment camp for Japanese Americans. The story of the latter is told from the perspective of the Department of the Interior employee sent to set up the camp rather than that of the internees. It is the story of the characters that absorbs us. With an irony not lost on him, Rocky, whose inherited wealth is derived from the extraction of natural resources, is battling the behemoth Los Angeles, which has “stolen” his water via its aqueduct. Having rejected his father’s pursuit of wealth, he headed west, where he built a home for his beloved, now deceased. Living with him is his sister Cas, who as a manly sized, intelligent, and independent woman has had a lifetime coping with issues of conventional femininity. Cas arrived to help care for her twin niece and nephew upon the death of their mother. Sunny, now a young woman, has grown up trying to fill the void that should have been her relationship with her mother. To that end, in part, she is focused on all things food. Her brother, Stryker, is known through the other characters and is portrayed as fearless—as well as somewhat reckless. Into the lives of this somewhat unconventional and eccentric family arrives Schiff, a first-generation, urban, Jewish American lawyer sent from the Department of the Interior to set up the internment camp—an irony not lost on him. Although a minor theme, the contrast of class here echoes the contrast of citizenship based on ethnicity. Yet, in outlining the plot and main characters of Properties of Water, the most important element of the novel is not addressed, and that is the intelligence and depth with which Marianne Wiggins brings her story to us. Her insight, her skill in creating a seamless world, her ability to bring us to the cusp of stream of consciousness without getting lost in it, characterizes her work. And, as with any good book, we feel the loss of the characters and hope for their (fictional) future. Simon and Schuster provided me an ARC of this novel.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I tried, I really did. I got to page 249 and just had to give up. I was still waiting for something (anything!) to happen but all I got to read about was food, food and yet again, food. I'm sure all that had some deeper meaning, but too deep for me apparently. Got to be one of the most boring books I've ever tried to read. I give up. I tried, I really did. I got to page 249 and just had to give up. I was still waiting for something (anything!) to happen but all I got to read about was food, food and yet again, food. I'm sure all that had some deeper meaning, but too deep for me apparently. Got to be one of the most boring books I've ever tried to read. I give up.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    I received a copy of this book to review from Net Galley. I was excited to start it because I'd read another novel by this author - Evidence of Things Unseen - that I liked it very much. I was surprised to find this book a bit uneven, with abrupt transitions within and between chapters, and too long overall, although there were characters and elements of the book I liked quite a lot. At the conclusion of the novel there was a section written by the author's daughter, explaining that her mother ha I received a copy of this book to review from Net Galley. I was excited to start it because I'd read another novel by this author - Evidence of Things Unseen - that I liked it very much. I was surprised to find this book a bit uneven, with abrupt transitions within and between chapters, and too long overall, although there were characters and elements of the book I liked quite a lot. At the conclusion of the novel there was a section written by the author's daughter, explaining that her mother had a severe stroke while she was writing the novel and was able to complete it only after a lengthy recovery. That may explain the book's lack of flow, or perhaps that was just my perception of it. In any case, I do recommend the title as the good outweighs the bad.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    What a wonderfully crafted novel that will remain with me for a very long time. There are two story lines, both taking place north of Los Angeles during the early 1940's, as WWII was beginning for the United States. One story line follows a ranching family, the patriarch of which (Rocky) is in a long term fight with the City of Los Angeles over water (which has been diverted from the rancher's valley to the city). Rocky's wife died when his twin children (boy (Stryker) and girl (Sunny)) were thr What a wonderfully crafted novel that will remain with me for a very long time. There are two story lines, both taking place north of Los Angeles during the early 1940's, as WWII was beginning for the United States. One story line follows a ranching family, the patriarch of which (Rocky) is in a long term fight with the City of Los Angeles over water (which has been diverted from the rancher's valley to the city). Rocky's wife died when his twin children (boy (Stryker) and girl (Sunny)) were three years old. Many aspects of the novel deal with how the children, particularly Sunny, try to overcome the loss of their mother. The other major story line follows Schiff, a Jewish lawyer from Chicago, who is sent to California by his employer (the US government) to be the government's administrator of Manzanar, which was one of the 10 Japanese internment camps created by the US government after Pearl Harbor. Of course, the two story lines intersect in many wonderful ways. This is not a light novel. We see so many aspects of Manzanar - from its construction to the daily life of its enforced Japanese inhabitants - - and our hearts are broken by the cruelty, racism and ignorance that sent them there and kept them there. The characters of some of the interned Japanese are drawn fairly fully so that we know them and feel for them as they try to get through each day of what they thought was only a temporary situation. The other theme is how Sunny tries to "find" the spirit of the mother she lost as a three year old. She partly does this by exploring her mother's rather incomplete/convoluted/unclear recipes - - which clearly had more meaning as her mother wrote them than just the order of the ingredients. At some points I thought that the focus on the food theme (Sunny becomes a very accomplished chef) was overdone - but since I have finished the book, I think that was all part of building the theme of trying to "find" the mother Sunny never knew. The ranching descriptions and descriptions of that area of California are amazing - you can feel the earth, sky and (lack of) water. You can feel the wind and dust that constantly plagued those interned at Manzanar. The characters are truly and vividly drawn. We watch as Schiff comes to understand what is really happening at Manzanar, as Rocky can't let go of his anger at the City of Los Angeles, as Sunny tries to make a life, as Stryker pushes all the limits, and as Cas (Rocky's sister) tries to save them all. The writing itself is beautiful and artistic. In some places the author uses a slightly different writing style (leaving out some punctuation), which makes it a little harder to follow. I think that is why I gave it 4 rather than 5 stars (but maybe I should rethink that decision!!) This is a wonderful novel about WWII in the US - including some things that never get really discussed or acknowledged - a need to be remembered always.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fran Hawthorne

    "Properties of Thirst" is sprawling, rich, deep, passionate, beautiful, and as big as one of its chief protagonists, the 6-foot-plus California rancher Rocky Rhodes, and the vast mountain ranges he loves. It is definitely worth reading. Yet, even at 544 pages, this novel is too meager for all the themes and subplots that it tries to tackle. A bit of backstory: Rocky and his twin sister, Cas, grow up in New York City in the late nineteenth century as the heirs to a mining-and-railroad fortune. Rej "Properties of Thirst" is sprawling, rich, deep, passionate, beautiful, and as big as one of its chief protagonists, the 6-foot-plus California rancher Rocky Rhodes, and the vast mountain ranges he loves. It is definitely worth reading. Yet, even at 544 pages, this novel is too meager for all the themes and subplots that it tries to tackle. A bit of backstory: Rocky and his twin sister, Cas, grow up in New York City in the late nineteenth century as the heirs to a mining-and-railroad fortune. Rejecting that heritage, Rocky heads out to the isolated Owens Valley desert of California, where he and his wife, Lou, build an idiosyncratic ranch. When Lou dies of polio, Cas moves into the ranch to help raise the couple’s three-year-old son and daughter, Stryker and Sunny, who are another set of twins. The ranch and valley rely for their survival on what had been a seemingly endless, free flow of snowmelt water from the mountains. But as the Los Angeles Department of Water begins buying up the water rights and draining the large local lake to feed the growing Southern California city’s gargantuan thirst, Rocky becomes obsessed with fighting what he calls the Water boys – via dynamite as well as lawsuits. ` The main narrative opens with the attack on Pearl Harbor, where Stryker – who had run away to join the Navy -- is stationed. Then the U.S. government decides to set up one of its infamous Japanese internment camps right in Rocky’s backyard, at a former apple orchard called Manzanar. Schiff, a young Jewish lawyer from the Interior Department, is sent to oversee the project. He soon finds himself drawn to Sunny, Rocky, and Cas, though they’re not especially welcoming. The book is divided into 11 sections, each purporting to be about a different property of thirst (invented by Wiggins), such as recognition, memory, the thwarting of desire, reinvention, and evaporation. The important thirst isn’t for water, however. It’s for connection. Schiff, Sunny, Cas, and Rocky too often fumble their connections with each other or with different characters, while longing for connection with those they miss, like Stryker, Lou, and the flourishing valley that Rocky first arrived in. The point of view varies mainly among Rocky, Cas, Sunny, Schiff, and Schiff’s Army aide, Jay Svevo, interspersed with others, sometimes back and forth on same page. The voices are almost uniformly Dostoevskian in their run-on intensity, though they can have their quirks. With so many pivotal characters, it’s no wonder the book can’t follow every plot or theme to its fullest. Note: In 2016, when she was nearly finished with the book, the multiple-prize-winning author, Marianne Wiggins, suffered a massive stroke. Gradually, Wiggins’s daughter nursed her back to writing health, reading the manuscript aloud to her more than two dozen times. It’s impossible not to wonder how that near-death experience may have altered Wiggins’s concept of the novel. (Adapted from my review in the “New York Journal of Books,” https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book... )

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    PROPERTIES OF THIRST BY: MARIANNE WIGGINS This was a huge epic and multi-layered historical fiction novel so beautifully rendered by an utterly proficient wordsmith that Marianne Wiggins does so well. I had discovered her work when the equally beautiful and to me tragic historical fiction that has garnered her with being a finalist for The National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist fifteen years ago. That book which I have also loved as much as "Properties of Thirst," was aptly titled "Eviden PROPERTIES OF THIRST BY: MARIANNE WIGGINS This was a huge epic and multi-layered historical fiction novel so beautifully rendered by an utterly proficient wordsmith that Marianne Wiggins does so well. I had discovered her work when the equally beautiful and to me tragic historical fiction that has garnered her with being a finalist for The National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist fifteen years ago. That book which I have also loved as much as "Properties of Thirst," was aptly titled "Evidence of Things Unseen". Both are unforgettable to me in the poetic language and the huge scope of themes that she tackles. It took me a little bit to get into both in that they both meander and start out confusing. Once I got past the beginning of this I became deeply invested in both the plot and I really cared about the characters. It is very difficult to review this because other reviewers have captured the same things that I am thinking. That's why I almost always write my review first and then go read what others have posted. I will keep it simple and just say that I really loved it and it is one of the best books that I have read this year. That being said, I don't know if it is for everybody. At 544 pages long it isn't written in a linear style because it is very descriptive and even though its main plot takes place during World War II, and it is about the awful treatment of the Japanese Americans being placed in internment camps after Pearl Harbor was bombed and most of our Navy was destroyed; the author goes back and forth in time such as when it develops Stryker and Sunny's Aunt Cas's character and their travels to Europe. It fleshes out both sets of twin's formative years. Actually, there are three sets of twins, when Stryker's children are mentioned they are the third set of twins in the Rhodes family.. He left to join the military and he was stationed at Pearl Harbor and then after it was bombed which takes place in the beginning. I got to know him by the author's stream of consciousness style of writing that reminded me of Virginia Woolf. The novel has eleven sections with different themes that are explored that reflects the title and have to do with the properties of thirst, What I found interesting was how traumas are often passed down through generation after generation, until somebody becomes enlightened and breaks the cycle. Rocky Rhodes has been battling with the Water Authorities who have diverted water from his ranch in Owens Valley, California in the desert to Los Angeles and Southern Californian cities. Schiff who is from the Department of the Interior has come to this area and it is him who is in charge of setting up and running the Interment camps for the Japanese Americans. Through him we are reminded when he realizes how much these camps have stripped this population of their freedom by the many rules and overcrowding conditions. I liked how he has compassion for the 10,000 internees by mentioning that if the President did that to other ethnic populations such as the Germans and Italians most of the cities would be decimated. I thought that considering Marianne Wiggins suffered from a massive stroke in 2016, that this sweeping historical novel is a remarkable achievement. I have great admiration for both her and her daughter who rallied to not only recover, but to manage to create such a passionate and intimate multi-themed and epic work such as, "Properties of Thirst," which I am grateful to have been granted an early ARC. I wish this author much success and my best wishes. Publication Date: August 2, 2022. Available Now! Thank you to Net Galley, Marianne Wiggins and Simon & Schuster for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. #PropertiesofThirst #MarianneWiggins #Simon&Schuster #NetGalley

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I believe I've just read my favorite book of the year. A multi-generational family saga unfolding on the west coast during WWII. Topics include Japanese internment camps, water rights, food, and love. The writing is graceful and beautiful with the most memorable characters I will be thinking of for a long time to come. Don't get on the waiting list at the library for this one. Go pick up a copy at your favorite local bookstore. You will read it more than once! I believe I've just read my favorite book of the year. A multi-generational family saga unfolding on the west coast during WWII. Topics include Japanese internment camps, water rights, food, and love. The writing is graceful and beautiful with the most memorable characters I will be thinking of for a long time to come. Don't get on the waiting list at the library for this one. Go pick up a copy at your favorite local bookstore. You will read it more than once!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Morrill

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Hallelujah-finally finished! *Book Group chicks, posting my review. Skip for now until we meet, if you'd prefer.* This may be one of the harder books to review. For me, one of the most important elements of a book is the writing. Even that though, is tough for me to rate for Properties of Thirst. On one hand, there were so many page-stopping, gorgeous passages that were like poetry. It would stop me in my tracks and I would have to go back and re-read them, in awe of the prose. When I look back o Hallelujah-finally finished! *Book Group chicks, posting my review. Skip for now until we meet, if you'd prefer.* This may be one of the harder books to review. For me, one of the most important elements of a book is the writing. Even that though, is tough for me to rate for Properties of Thirst. On one hand, there were so many page-stopping, gorgeous passages that were like poetry. It would stop me in my tracks and I would have to go back and re-read them, in awe of the prose. When I look back on 2022, (more than 3/4 s of the way through currently), and I think about some of the most beautiful writing I read, I am betting this book may make it to the top or near top of the list. For that element, I would rate it 5 stars and I think Wiggins is one of the most talented writers without a doubt. Yet at the same time, one of the biggest complaints I have about this book is also about – although it pains me to say it – the writing. At times I found myself lost in a page, not sure what I just read and again also having to go back and re-read a page to understand the meaning. Not only that, but very often when I would go to return to the book after a night, I found myself not understanding what had just happened in the book or who the page was even centered around. I would again have to go further back to find my footing for where I was. It started to feel like a chore, and that's never how I want to feel about reading. So in a way, at times it was a slog of a read for me. I felt the (literal) heaviness of this book every time I went to pick it up, and halfway through I wasn’t eager to open it back up. I was emotionally connected at the beginning, lost it somewhere along the middle and regained it a little towards the end. I felt as though there were either a few too many main characters (Schiff) and even minor characters or there were much too much unnecessary details, which bogged it down and took away from the beautiful writing. I am a lover of character-driven novels and Wiggins made a heck of an effort to pack in descriptions of characters. But I found it to be too much, particularly too much back story. Halfway through I felt the back story was pulling me backwards, not propelling me forward. In hindsight, why was so much detail given to minor characters such as Schiff’s friend, Jay Sveno or Jimmy Ideda? These characters distracted me from the story. That’s another thing, sometimes Wiggins would refer to some of these characters by their first or last names. I began feeling confused over who was who, if there was an additional character I was missing! One of the biggest gripes I have with the book was that the whole story seemed to be building towards the construction and running of a Japanese-American internment camp but in the grand scheme, it seemed to have no major role in the story. I felt like Wiggins took a hard turn in a different direction and never closed the loop on it. And what’s more important is that I wanted to get a better understanding of the plight of the Japanese Americans who were stuck there. I felt like it was treated like a minor subplot, hastily discarded on the side. I felt like that would have been the more important story, less important than the rich Rhodes family and Schiff who is tasked with running it. I feel if I was a Japanese-American, I would be hugely disappointed as this was a big miss and not treated with enough respect frankly. What it all comes down to, in my humble opinion, is I think the book needed a massive editing that would have let the soul of the book shine through better. After reading the Afterword and subsequent news articles on Wiggins’ stroke before the book was completed, it made complete sense to me why. I think if Wiggins could have gone back and tightened up the book and given it a writer’s edit, the book would have probably shaped up differently. I couldn’t have more respect, admiration, and good wishes for Wiggins in her health. And her daughter deserves massive appreciation for all of her efforts in both caring for her mother and for this novel and bringing it to fruition. I am glad I read it. Some of the characters like Sunny will stay with me a long while. As much as I loved some of the writing, there was a lot of drawbacks that took away from that beautiful writing which brought my rating down to lower than I would have liked, fizzling out to 3 stars overall.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    “Properties of Thirst” by Marianne Wiggins, Simon & Schuster, 544 pages, Aug. 2, 2022. Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes and his wife, Lou, raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, on a California ranch, Las Tres Sillas. He has been mourning Lou since her death from polio years earlier. His sister Cas lives with him. She came to help with the twins after Lou’s death and stayed on. The twins are now grown. It is the early 1940s. Rocky has been fighting the LA Water Corporation for years. The authority bought up “Properties of Thirst” by Marianne Wiggins, Simon & Schuster, 544 pages, Aug. 2, 2022. Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes and his wife, Lou, raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, on a California ranch, Las Tres Sillas. He has been mourning Lou since her death from polio years earlier. His sister Cas lives with him. She came to help with the twins after Lou’s death and stayed on. The twins are now grown. It is the early 1940s. Rocky has been fighting the LA Water Corporation for years. The authority bought up water rights to land surrounding his ranch, draining his aquifer. Stryker is estranged from his father and joins the Navy. He is sent to Pearl Harbor not long before the attack. Sunny is interested in cooking. Then the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch. Schiff, an employee of the Department of the Interior, arrives. In time, Schiff begins to understand the horror of what he's been asked to do. He also becomes interested in Sunny. While it is an interesting historical novel, it is disjointed and too long. The afterword reveals that Marianne Wiggins had a serious stroke while writing the novel, but was able to complete it after a lengthy recovery. Marianne Wiggins is also the author of “Evidence of Things Unseen,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. In accordance with FTC guidelines, the advance reader's edition of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill Silva

    Magnificent prose, compelling characters, and a great story…this is a complex, sweeping novel with writing that at times takes your breath away. There is a bit of an unfinished quality to the text, but the Afterword explains why, and it in no way diminishes the power and impact of this truly terrific book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hein

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow. Just.. wow. I have so much to say about this book and I don’t even know where to begin. This book reads like a poem. A fluid, constant stream of consciousness in the third person shifting from POV to POV. You get to intimately know each character from inside their own mind and how they view and love the others in the story. It tells the story of the Rhodes family, a long line of twins with a significant inheritance from their father and a mission to find their own way in the world, outside o Wow. Just.. wow. I have so much to say about this book and I don’t even know where to begin. This book reads like a poem. A fluid, constant stream of consciousness in the third person shifting from POV to POV. You get to intimately know each character from inside their own mind and how they view and love the others in the story. It tells the story of the Rhodes family, a long line of twins with a significant inheritance from their father and a mission to find their own way in the world, outside of their father’s shadow. Rockwell Rhodes (Rocky) the Patriarch of the family, drops out of Harvard and moves to the High Sierras in the early 1900’s to be as far away from his father and his money as he can to live off the land and be a real cowboy. He falls in love with a French doctor (Louisiana “Lou”) and they make a life and medical practice living off the land in the high, snow capped mountains of the Sierras and Mount Whitney. A simple life with Mexican and Native American laborers living on their ranch together as family and friends, they seem to have the life they’ve always dreamed of. They have two beautiful twins (Sunny and Stryker) and life is good. When the children are three, Lou succumbs to Polio and Rocky is left to parent the children alone in the isolated high desert. His twin sister, Caswell (Cas) immediately abandons her life and dreams as a professional touring harpist in Scandinavia and turns her ball gowns in for galoshes and crewneck sweaters to raise the children alongside her brother and best friend. Stryker is the younger twin, bold and brazen, flirtatious and devious. He never seems to forgive his father for his mother’s death, and his relationship with his father has always been strained and tense. Sunny is the practical, pensive, motherly twin.. always keeping things in order and often sacrificing her comfort and experiences in life to protect her twin brother. When Stryker decides to leave the family and join the Navy, he only tells his sister, Sunny. On December 7, 1941, the Naval Base Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii is bombed by the Japanese, and Sunny confesses to her family that that is where Stryker had been stationed with his new Japanese wife Suzy and their two twin boys, Ralph and Waldo Rhodes. They are informed that Stryker was aboard the Arizona and has perished in the attack, and the whereabouts of his new wife and children are unknown. While the family is searching for answers, and the United States is bloodthirsty with a violent and racist rage against anyone of Japanese decent, a young Jewish lawyer from Chicago named Schiff comes to town with an unusual job for the Department of the Interior. While eating dinner at the best place in town, Lou’s, he meets Sunny and is immediately taken with her. When he finds out that she is the lead chef and is living her dream of creating savory, meaningful dishes from all over the world in her own restaurant, he admits to her that he is in charge of opening and operating one of the largest Japanese internment camps on the border of her family land. This story has so many layers of life, love, loss, grace, grudges, and hope… all with water at the center. You get to know each character so intimately that their development though the pages is both satisfying and sad, as their death and loss become yours. The love and selflessness of the Rhodes family is a thing of beauty and the love and devotion of Schiff to Sunny and Rocky to Lou sets the bar so high, like only a novel can. The story was so rich with French, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew/Yiddish and Native American phrases, slang and shorthand that I felt immersed in so many cultures the entire time. The details of each and every food made my mouth water, and I felt like I could smell and taste the things Sunny described. The ending was so devastatingly beautiful and fitting that I can’t even be upset. This book was phenomenal, exquisite, I couldn’t put it down. I can’t recommend it enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    Just as thirst has many properties, so does this novel - family saga, love story(ies), historical fiction, environmental fiction, literary fiction -and I think it's going to be big when it is published in August. The novel itself is a grand and immersive tale, but the back story of how the novel was finished after the author's massive stroke is also an inspiration. Water, it's life-giving properties, and it's use and misuse is a major theme, but the lives of Rockwell (Rocky) Rhodes and his famil Just as thirst has many properties, so does this novel - family saga, love story(ies), historical fiction, environmental fiction, literary fiction -and I think it's going to be big when it is published in August. The novel itself is a grand and immersive tale, but the back story of how the novel was finished after the author's massive stroke is also an inspiration. Water, it's life-giving properties, and it's use and misuse is a major theme, but the lives of Rockwell (Rocky) Rhodes and his family, living in the Owens Valley/Desert outside of LA in the early 1940s are the heart of the story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Simply a masterpiece! An American classic! When I started the book, I questioned if I should continue. Wiggins wrote in a style that I was not used to. It was full of stream of consciousness, different grammatical and punctuation styles that breach the rules.. Do not let that turn you off. As I persisted it all made perfect sense and I was completely lost into this hefty,expansive, cinematic, and multi-layered book. This is truly one of the greats that should not be missed. It feels almost too d Simply a masterpiece! An American classic! When I started the book, I questioned if I should continue. Wiggins wrote in a style that I was not used to. It was full of stream of consciousness, different grammatical and punctuation styles that breach the rules.. Do not let that turn you off. As I persisted it all made perfect sense and I was completely lost into this hefty,expansive, cinematic, and multi-layered book. This is truly one of the greats that should not be missed. It feels almost too difficult for me to describe this book without writing pages as there are so many major and minor themes and subplots. This tapestry is part of what makes this book so rich, so detailed and lush that you literally feel the wind, the land, the mountains and ache for the characters. Set during WWII, Rocky Rhodes and his twin sister Cas grew up in the east, heirs to a mining and railroad fortune that Rocky rejected. He moved out West as a young man to a desert area in California and builds The Three Chairs ranch. (There is a story behind that too!) He and his French wife Lou who was not only a chef but a doctor who incorporates tribal medicine into her practice lived there until she succumbed to polio. When she dies, Cas comes to live with them to take care of Rocky's 3 year old twins, Stryker and Sunny. We learn about their youth, their idiosyncrasies and become involved in Rocky's LONG fight with the Los Angeles Water board who wants to own the water rights to divert water into Los Angeles. Another whole theme is the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor (where Stryker may have perished)and the internment camps that are being set up next to Rocky's property in a former apple orchard. A young Jewish man is sent there from the Interior Dept to develop this project (the irony blatant) and becomes involved with the Rhodes family, eventually becomes disillusioned with the project and develops an increasing attraction to the grown up independent Sunny. Each chapter is labeled as a different property of thirst, an element of surprise, submission, recognition, memory etc..but in many ways this book is about the thirst for closeness and kinship. This dense book is not necessarily an easy read. I had to move slowly but this was because I wanted to simultaneously savor and devour every luxurious word. The characters were complex, fully alive and vividly conveyed while the writing made you feel you had the pulse of the country. This is a love story-to our American West and to the score that repeats itself throughout the book."You can't save what you don't love." When you get to the end of the book, you find that this Pulitzer Prize finalist author had a massive stroke before the completion of this novel. Her daughter nursed her back to health and helped her complete this masterpiece. Another love story.... Trust yourself..Get this book and persist because it will haunt you for a long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    4.5 stars. A wonderful work of historical fiction, large in scope and populated with memorable characters that seem drawn from life. The story revolves around the Rhodes family who live on a sprawling ranch near Lone Pine in the Owens Valley at the onset of World War II. Through them we experience the California water wars, the shock of Pearl Harbor, the heartbreaking internment of Japanese-Americans at Manzanar, the pain of loss, the struggle to find one's place in the world and to save it from 4.5 stars. A wonderful work of historical fiction, large in scope and populated with memorable characters that seem drawn from life. The story revolves around the Rhodes family who live on a sprawling ranch near Lone Pine in the Owens Valley at the onset of World War II. Through them we experience the California water wars, the shock of Pearl Harbor, the heartbreaking internment of Japanese-Americans at Manzanar, the pain of loss, the struggle to find one's place in the world and to save it from man's self-destructive behavior. It is also a love story; the love between siblings(twins), the love of a man for his wife, of parents and children, and of romantic love that is so often elusive. The mantra "You can't save what you don't love" is justifiably sprinkled throughout this beautifully written tale. The characters are the heart and soul of the story. Wiggins takes the time to dig deep into their present lives as well as their backstories to give the us a sense of intimacy with the Rhodes' and of being a part of the family saga. Highly stylized, the prose is a sumptuous feast; lyrical, oozing emotion, and sprinkled with quotable truths. The dialog is pitch perfect. My one niggling complaint is the author's somewhat excessive use of quotation marks within her prose, particularly in the novels first section. It's a tiresome distraction at times but part of what defines her style. If you enjoy character driven narratives drawn on a huge canvas you're sure to love Properties of Thirst.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lively

    If you don't know the story about Marianne Wiggins' major stroke and everything she, her daughter, and her editor went through to get this novel completed, look into it. Or simply read the Afterward. It's an incredible story. As for the novel, settle in. It's an incredible story in its own right, using water as a metaphor for life. It's not a quick read but that is a good thing. It sprawls, and dips, and soars and carries you through the full range of emotions. The unconstitutional internment of If you don't know the story about Marianne Wiggins' major stroke and everything she, her daughter, and her editor went through to get this novel completed, look into it. Or simply read the Afterward. It's an incredible story. As for the novel, settle in. It's an incredible story in its own right, using water as a metaphor for life. It's not a quick read but that is a good thing. It sprawls, and dips, and soars and carries you through the full range of emotions. The unconstitutional internment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar in World War II is central to the story. Wiggins reminds you that they lost property, careers, friends, family, and, of course, freedom because of unfounded fears based in racism. There are many ways that Wiggins makes these characters -- and the actual people who were forced into the camps -- real. She does this with things like women making dashi (and teaching Sunny to do it, too), discussions about a derailed medical career, and the disappearance of a family member who is presumed deported in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There are several other subplots to this story: Rocky's lawsuits against Los Angeles for stealing water from Owens Valley, Schiff and Sunny's love affair, Sunny's obsession with cooking (fueled by a wonderful trip to Paris with her Aunt Cas), the growing presence of the film industry in California, and, with some much needed and smart comic relief, Schiff's Army assistant, Svevo. I appreciated that Wiggins was able to intertwine all of these stories together in a way that feels rather seamless -- you would never know that she was not able to finish this novel in the traditional way.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Larry Fontenot

    This is a fine book with an interesting plot, well-developed characters and an historical backdrop of Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt’s order to incarcerate Japanese American citizens. In particular, the camp at Manzanar in California is a presence in much of the book. I loved the main characters, and their backstories are informative and entertaining. If I had any complaint, it is that occasionally the author strangles the narrative with over wrought prose. Whether a paragraph, several pages or much This is a fine book with an interesting plot, well-developed characters and an historical backdrop of Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt’s order to incarcerate Japanese American citizens. In particular, the camp at Manzanar in California is a presence in much of the book. I loved the main characters, and their backstories are informative and entertaining. If I had any complaint, it is that occasionally the author strangles the narrative with over wrought prose. Whether a paragraph, several pages or much of a chapter, Wiggins feels determined to introduce us to details of things that I, personally, found of little interest. She manages to wiggle free of this tendency for much of the book, and it is a delight. I suspect that literary authors often feel compelled to demonstrate that they know what they’re writing about, though what they’re writing about may be of little interest. She sometimes delves into nonsense and the mumble jumble of literary practices. Her final chapters are reverse in order, but that is no problem here. But on the whole Wiggins (and her daughter and countless friends) have created a wonderful book. One small irritant: we never learn Schiff’s first name, although we know it is not Abraham.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol Eshaghy

    Rocky Rhodes lives on a California ranch with his twins Sunny and Stryker and his sister Cas. He has spent years fighting the LA Water corp that rerouted the mountain water to LA making his ranch a desert. His priorities change when Pearl Harbor is bombed. His son was stationed there in the Navy and his fate is unknown. Adam Schiff comes to town. He works for the Department of the Interior and his job is to build an interment camp for 10,000 Japanese Americans. This building will be right next t Rocky Rhodes lives on a California ranch with his twins Sunny and Stryker and his sister Cas. He has spent years fighting the LA Water corp that rerouted the mountain water to LA making his ranch a desert. His priorities change when Pearl Harbor is bombed. His son was stationed there in the Navy and his fate is unknown. Adam Schiff comes to town. He works for the Department of the Interior and his job is to build an interment camp for 10,000 Japanese Americans. This building will be right next to Rocky’s home,Three Chairs. This engenders a relationship between both men. I had heard about this part of our history but never really understood the whole picture. This was a story with characters that linger, long after the story ends. Sadly, the author had a massive stroke and there may have been more she wanted to say. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    A family saga about the power and necessity of water. The Rhoades family lives in the Owen Valley of California. The story takes place during the Second World War. A Japanese Internment camp is built near the Rhoades property. Rocky Rhoades has been battling with the “water boys” from Los Angeles over the stealing and transporting of water from the Sierras to the city of Los Angeles via the California Aquaduct for years. A little long at times, but overall a good family history. What really amaz A family saga about the power and necessity of water. The Rhoades family lives in the Owen Valley of California. The story takes place during the Second World War. A Japanese Internment camp is built near the Rhoades property. Rocky Rhoades has been battling with the “water boys” from Los Angeles over the stealing and transporting of water from the Sierras to the city of Los Angeles via the California Aquaduct for years. A little long at times, but overall a good family history. What really amazed me was how the author had to finish this novel after suffering a massive stroke. Many people helped her to overcome the damaging effects from the stroke in order to complete the final chapters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    4.5 A novel with beautiful, imaginative, intelligent, lyrical prose and complex, memorable characters. As a Native Californian, I was drawn to a story about water rights and Manzanar, one of the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Although both are addressed, this is a story that is more about finding and losing love and about family. Marianne is frequently listed with other accomplished modern authors, but this book reminded me of the works of great classic authors such as Steinbeck and Stegn 4.5 A novel with beautiful, imaginative, intelligent, lyrical prose and complex, memorable characters. As a Native Californian, I was drawn to a story about water rights and Manzanar, one of the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Although both are addressed, this is a story that is more about finding and losing love and about family. Marianne is frequently listed with other accomplished modern authors, but this book reminded me of the works of great classic authors such as Steinbeck and Stegner.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Smith

    A rich story centered largely in desert, rain starved Owens Valley. One holdout rancher uses his fortune in continual battle with the Los Angeles Water district, who was bought all the land and water rights around him - turning Owen's valley into a desert wasteland. When The U.S. government builds Manzanar, the Japanese American Internment Camp, this story becomes larger and more intense and oh, so very good. Wiggins's complex characters, her rich story telling is like no other. Simply, brilliant. A rich story centered largely in desert, rain starved Owens Valley. One holdout rancher uses his fortune in continual battle with the Los Angeles Water district, who was bought all the land and water rights around him - turning Owen's valley into a desert wasteland. When The U.S. government builds Manzanar, the Japanese American Internment Camp, this story becomes larger and more intense and oh, so very good. Wiggins's complex characters, her rich story telling is like no other. Simply, brilliant.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne McLaughlin

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is woven around the LA water wars, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The character development was top-notch and interesting. I could hardly put the book down until I completed it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    DNF. The publicity about this book was appealing and I was really looking forward to it. However it didn't take long for the writing style with endless dashes and parenthesis to bother me. DNF. The publicity about this book was appealing and I was really looking forward to it. However it didn't take long for the writing style with endless dashes and parenthesis to bother me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ellyn R. Hogan

    The author’s detailed descriptions and character development were beautifully written. I wanted to taste the French cuisine! My 3 star review is because I felt the author took too long to develop the story and the stream of consciousness writing style made it difficult to read at times. I appreciated that it was intelligently written, however, I would fall down the rabbit hole of the author’s esoteric thoughts and it would in my opinion bog down the story. My favorite 5 star books are stories tha The author’s detailed descriptions and character development were beautifully written. I wanted to taste the French cuisine! My 3 star review is because I felt the author took too long to develop the story and the stream of consciousness writing style made it difficult to read at times. I appreciated that it was intelligently written, however, I would fall down the rabbit hole of the author’s esoteric thoughts and it would in my opinion bog down the story. My favorite 5 star books are stories that I am sad have come to an end because I have so enjoyed the journey. This book I wanted to end. Even the ending was drawn out. If the characters in this book were reading it, they would say, “Enough already!”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wisegirl Wiser

    "You can't save what you do not love." Tragedy and ethical irony claw at the hearts of Mary Higgins' larger than life characters in this epic literary masterpiece about finding love and family in all the wrong places. Rockwell Rhodes receives his wealth from his industrialist father, whom he hates for stealing minerals out of the ground for his fame and, of course, for the literal mine of fortune that is now "Rocky's" inheritance. Rocky escapes the big city and creates an idyllic life on his Cal "You can't save what you do not love." Tragedy and ethical irony claw at the hearts of Mary Higgins' larger than life characters in this epic literary masterpiece about finding love and family in all the wrong places. Rockwell Rhodes receives his wealth from his industrialist father, whom he hates for stealing minerals out of the ground for his fame and, of course, for the literal mine of fortune that is now "Rocky's" inheritance. Rocky escapes the big city and creates an idyllic life on his California ranch with the love of his life and two beautiful children, until the water below his land is 'mined' right out from under him by the LA Water company. Rocky's wife Lou took a gamble when she followed him, a stranger who spied her from across the Chicago train station they were both passing through. He stole her heart by building the mansion with a bell tower he had promised, and he did it with his own bare hands! "And what if love does not save you?" In the end her luck ran out when, in spite of being a doctor AND a chef level garden to table master creator of healthy and delectable food, she was struck down by sickness and tragically expired due to ill informed treatment. The wild child of the twins was Stryker, but he ends up a hero in an infamous national incident of war. Sunny, stubborn but sweet, seeks and recreates the love of her absent mother in the mysteries of food she must unlock from French language books with unknown ingredients. She ironically finds love with a Jewish lawyer and war officer, in WWII, tasked with creating the prison-home for Japanese-American citizens on the plot next door; he knows his assignment is both illegal and immoral and he wants out. It is hard to see the beauty in Rocky's 6'4" twin sister, who left NYC to help raise her brother's children, until you see her play the harp or travel with her as the puppet master of culture in the big apple and Europe. About the properties of thirst and water: sometimes it will swallow the ones you love, and the only part of them you can save is their essence, hidden in the memories. If you are as good as Higgin's characters, your love can recreate that essence from thin air, even when there are no real memories… The literary experience of this four digit length novel is as delectable as the cuisine and the stories of love that are artfully woven throughout its masterful language. You will masticate the darkly humorous turns of phrase and savor the empty places in the sinuous themes of this steadily erudite experience, and you will never want it to end! The afterward is the true story of the author's cruel health incident. The way her daughter and friends-village helped her rally to finish this beautiful story is an inspiration. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for this ARC. My favorite ever.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nolan Mancl

    This book is difficult to categorize because it does so many things. Set during one of the most shameful times in US history, Marianne Wiggins explores the impact of war on the environment/agriculture, the dimensions of grief, existential questions, and critiques racism and racist logic. Written with linguistic mastery, this beautiful novel is sure to become an American classic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Valentino

    Epic Masterwork with a Backstory Marianne Wiggins has gifted us a big, brawny novel that encompasses the thirst that built Los Angeles, the satisfaction of which irrevocably altered a region, destroyed a lake (Lake Owens), and spawned a water war in the mountains of eastern California; that addresses one of America’s sorrier episodes, the establishment of the West Coast Exclusion Zone and internment for the duration of WWII of Japanese American citizens pursuant to Executive Order 9066; and that, Epic Masterwork with a Backstory Marianne Wiggins has gifted us a big, brawny novel that encompasses the thirst that built Los Angeles, the satisfaction of which irrevocably altered a region, destroyed a lake (Lake Owens), and spawned a water war in the mountains of eastern California; that addresses one of America’s sorrier episodes, the establishment of the West Coast Exclusion Zone and internment for the duration of WWII of Japanese American citizens pursuant to Executive Order 9066; and that, while doing all this, tells in terrifically interesting detail how a collection of colorful individuals deal with all this, as well as their own personal foibles and loves. It may be one of, if not, the best novels you will read this year. And as readers will discover, bringing it to us was as near to a miracle as you can get. Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes pulled up stakes in the East and poured his inherited fortune into the land around Owens Lake. Then the L.A. water boys came. They shunted the water relied upon by the ranchers and farmers into the aqueducts that made big bustling L.A. possible. Rocky went to war both physically and legally but to no avail. As the novel opens, he has turned his attention to what remains of his sprawling stake, and to his family. He has lost his wife, Lou, a doctor to polio; his son, Stryker, always a rebel, struck out on his own, becoming a Navy ensign, stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The family fears him lost. Rocky’s sister, Cas, a world renowned harpist, lives on the sprawling Rhodes estate and helped raise Stryker and Rocky and Lou’s daughter Sunny, also a strongly independent woman. His and his family’s is a raucous but settled life, until the government comes to establish an internment camp, one of scores across the western states after FDR issued Executive Order 9066. Schiff, a smart young lawyer of Jewish descent working for the Department of the Interior arrives with the task of quickly establishing a camp that will house 10,000 Japanese. Upon his arrival, he begins on the monumental job, and he meets Sunny. It will prove to be a life-changing encounter for both with plenty of eventual moments over the six years of the novel, that will also see Rocky and Cas finding new purpose in their lives. While Rocky and his family comprise the main characters in Wiggins’ expansive novel, others will interest various readers. There’s young Snow, a sharpshooter employed by the water department to protect the waterworks and aqueducts. Snow lives by a strict moral code regarding his special shooting ability, and while never formally learning to read, managed to master Braille and read that way. He’s something of a mysterious individual to readers at the opening of the novel, but becomes familiar and not a little sympathetic as Wiggins unreels his backstory. In the end, he has a tremendous impact on the Rhodes family. Then there are the Japanese who work to establish new lives while imprisoned, and how they, the Rhodes, Schiff, and others team up to protect and preserve the Japanese’s assets until the end of the war. When you read other reviews of Properties of Thirst, you’ll see Wiggins praised for language. And when you read her rhapsodize on food, its import, preparation, and consumption, all Sunny’s passion; the majesty of the land, the valleys and mountains, loved by Rhodes and all; and music, specially the harp, its sound and how it’s played Cas; when you finish these various passages, you’ll understand the reason for the praise. And at the end, if you take a few moments to read the Afterword written by Lara Porzak, Wiggins’ daughter, you’ll appreciate the strength of Marianne Wiggins and those around her as they help her recover from a massive stroke, using completion of the novel as part of her therapy. In itself, it is quite a story. Finally, if the California water wars and the building of great city intrigues you, and you don’t dislike L.A. as much as Rocky Rhodes, you won’t find a better, more entertaining book on the subject than The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles, by Gary Krist.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I am grateful to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with the opportunity to read an advance copy of this magnificent novel. 20th century California, specifically the Owens Valley, provides a turbulent setting for Wiggins spectacular epic. The rancher at the center of the tale, Rocky Rhodes, is the blue blood son of a brutal New York capitalist in the mold of the Astors and the Morgans. When railroad magnet Wellington Rhodes dies, Rocky and his twin sister, Caswell, sell off the fami I am grateful to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with the opportunity to read an advance copy of this magnificent novel. 20th century California, specifically the Owens Valley, provides a turbulent setting for Wiggins spectacular epic. The rancher at the center of the tale, Rocky Rhodes, is the blue blood son of a brutal New York capitalist in the mold of the Astors and the Morgans. When railroad magnet Wellington Rhodes dies, Rocky and his twin sister, Caswell, sell off the family’s assets and Rocky heads West. Rocky’s wife, Lou, whom he first spied on a Chicago rail platform, is the only female physician practicing in Inyo County, ministering to the resident Indian and Mexican populations until her death from polio. Rocky is left to raise their three-year-old twins, Stryker and Sunny, at their ranch, Las Tres Silas (the Three Chairs, a homage to Rocky’s adoration for Thoreau), in the shadow of the Sierras. Cas, a six foot three woman who Rocky thought looked like Spencer Tracy, was the defining woman in the twin’s lives, sacrificing her career as an acclaimed harpist, and her own chance at parenthood, to assist her grief stricken brother raise his twins. Stryker blamed his father for his mother’s premature death, and even when he was old enough to understood how polio infiltrates, nothing could diminish his anger or refocus it away from Rocky. Much to land-bound Rocky’s dismay, Stryker joined the navy, writing from Pearl Harbor to his sister periodically who passed along the news to Rocky. Sunny remained with her father and aunt, operating a local restaurant, Lou’s. World War II encroaches. The desiccated land adjacent to the Three Chairs is requisitioned by the government. Schiff, an employee of the Department of Interior, is charged with building a detention camp, Manzanar, at the base of Mount Whitney to house Japanese-American citizens after the President banned all citizens of Japanese descent from living on or near the western coast from Canada to Mexico. At the beginning of the 20th century, agents were sent to Manzanar, two hundred miles north of Los Angeles, to buy up land for water rights that they could send back south by canal and aqueduct to a thirsty Los Angeles. These water poachers from Los Angeles built an aqueduct, designed by William Mulholland, that diverted run-off from the Sierras from the Owens Valley, causing Rocky’s neighbors to abandon their arid ranches and move north. Rocky, who had waged a thirty year “holy war” against the Department of Water in Los Angeles, had sued on the theory that the City needed to pay for the dust that blew off the drained lake and polluted the air requiring dust mitigation. Rocky’s vendetta intersects with the detainees whom he thinks that he could use to demonstrate a cause and effect between geriatric emphysema and pediatric asthma and the water being diverted. This magnificent novel is seeped in history that is familiar to Californians, but is so rooted in the lives of these unforgettable characters’ that it makes the familiar history particularly vivid. Whether Wiggins’ is describing the minutiae of the delectable meals created by Sunny or the majestic beauty of the expansive Owens Valley, each sentence is poetic and deftly crafted. It is not an overstatement to call this panoramic novel a masterpiece.

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