Thirst for Salt

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A Bustle, LitHub, Debutiful, and NYLON Most Anticipated Book of 2023

A Goodreads Buzziest Book of the New Year

“A love affair so richly and attentively imagined it carries the grace and gravity of memory itself.” —Leslie Jamison

It’s hard to remember now that I was once that girl, lying in the sand in my red swimsuit and swimming late into the day. Sharkbait, he called me.

It’s in the water where she first sees him: a local man almost twenty years her senior. Adrift in the summer after finishing college, a young woman is on holiday with her mother in an isolated Australian coastal town. Finding herself pulled to Jude, the man in the water, she begins losing herself in the simple, seductive rhythms of his everyday life.

As their relationship deepens, life at Sailors Beach offers her the stability she has been craving as the daughter of two drifters—a loving but impulsive mother and an itinerant father. But the arrival of Maeve, a friend from Jude’s past, threatens to rock their fragile, newfound intimacy. And when she witnesses something she doesn’t fully understand, she finds herself questioning everything—about Jude, about herself, about the life she has and the one she wants.

A magnetic and unforgettable story of desire and its complexities, and a powerful reckoning with memory, loss, and longing, Madelaine Lucas’s debut novel, Thirst for Salt, reveals with stunning, sensual immediacy the way the past can hold us in its thrall, shaping who we are and what we love.


  • A mesmerizing portrait of a romance with graceful, seductive writing. . . . This novel has a sea glass quality—time-worn, beautiful, worth holding onto.


  • Luscious and melancholy. . . . Sensual and electric.

    —Foreward Reviews, Starred Review

  • Lucas’ meditation on relationships is masterful. . . . [her] portrayal of love and desire exerts a wonderful pull.

    —Kirkus Reviews

  • Intelligent. . . . Lucas
    keenly captures the relationship’s slow erosion, as well as the
    narrator’s ability to make sense of her past while looking back on it.
    The author’s psychological acuity will keep readers piqued.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • Lucas is a wonderful writer.


  • Seductive and tender. . . . an engrossing page-turner.


  • A sensual coming of age novel.


  • Madelaine Lucas’s Thirst for Salt gripped me immediately, with the tender acuity of its voice and the propulsive electricity of the relationship at its core: a love affair so richly and attentively imagined it carries the grace and gravity of memory itself. It’s a novel whose momentum emerges not from melodrama but from the primal mysteries of human intimacy: How do people come together and come apart? Every once in a while, a novel enters my life that I know is destined to become part of my bloodstream. Thirst for Salt is one of those novels and I’m so excited to think of it finding its way to readers who will be changed by it.

    —Leslie Jamison

  • This novel is a beautiful, melancholy tide. I felt inexorably pulled to it, and by it. Lucas is a brilliant conjurer of emotional and bodily longing. I felt, while avidly turning the pages, that briny tightness of the skin, as though I’d sat in the hot sun after an ocean swim. Thirst for Salt is a sensuous, visceral debut.

    —Heidi Julavits

  • Thirst for Salt is an exquisite, magnificent gem of a book. While Madelaine Lucas’s style is delicate and spare, her story is one of searing power—the story of a young woman’s exploration of the fraught, often dangerous, forces of love, motherhood, art, and wilderness. Thirst for Salt is a revelation, with a quietly radical view of female desire and independence, and Lucas is a brilliant new voice—compassionate, daring, heartbreaking. It’s no surprise that she is also an acclaimed musician, for this debut novel is full of verve and beauty, and it stays with you like a charged, lingering melody.

    —Rebecca Godfrey, bestselling author of Under the Bridge