Madelaine Lucas’s debut novel, Thirst for Salt, paints an alluring narrative of being young and in love for the first time, navigating uncharted territory with a fierce longing. From our first encounter with Jude, a forty-two-year-old beach-dwelling carpenter, and our protagonist, a twenty-four-year-old budding writer known only as “Shark Bait,” a nickname bestowed on her upon meeting, the story is quick to build heat:
“…I pushed my face into his chest, rubbed my cheek against the rough weave of his coat. The water was rising and he was the only warm, dry place. I put my arms around his neck, wrapping my legs around his waist. Climbing him, like a child. I took his head in my hands, cradled it against my chest, kissed his hair where it was graying at the crown and at the temples.
I woke naked, twisted in white sheets, nightgown up around my neck. What had I seen to make me dream that way? Veins on his arms, the few dark curls on his chest above his low buttoned shirt. Elegant feet, pale and long. As sleep dragged me back again, I felt the heat press against me like a second skin, heard the ocean outside my window like a lover’s breath. Everything suddenly unbearably erotic, alive.” pg. 30, Thirst for Salt.
Lucas’s title is apt. The way salt makes you crave another glass of water after you’ve just drank a tall glass of it, the way you know it makes you thirstier when you consume it, but you also know you can’t retain hydration without it. This is the helplessly captivating way in which love and lust are depicted in the tender yet guarded interior of our young protagonist.
Her interiority is rendered so well it feels as if you have melded with her consciousness, feeling everything she feels right alongside her. The characters come alive in your mind as people you know and love. Smells and sounds of the ocean permeate this book, with much of its setting taking place at Bondi Beach, a charming Australian beach town.
Lucas’s generous detailing and world-building allow for a realness to occur in this book, making you feel as if you can hear, touch, taste and smell it all. With every convincing detail and animated character, it is hard to believe that the end of the story is truly the end, as its characters and the world around them live on in your mind. You will want more.
Thirst for Salt will be published by Tin House Press on March 6th, 2023.