"Every second of their relationship played in her mind. A heartbeat, a lifetime. Christmas mornings around the tree, peals of excitement, loving. Each wonderful second of joy. The heart-ripping torture of a home torn apart with her own hands."
In a drunken stupor, Nina Parker staggers to the doorstep of her former home with some brilliant notion swimming in her mind of surprising them on Christmas Eve. She has missed their party, and the children have been in bed for hours. At two in the morning, Nina knocks on the door, knowing deep down that it won't go over well but not able to let it go. Hunt had endured a lot until he finally threw her out, but now as he opens the door, Nina makes an appeal once again to see her kids:
"Pretty please? Just this once. For me?"
"No," he said, his voice ice, even colder than the god-awful air. "You can come in and wait for the cab if you want."
While Hunt calls the cab, Nina waits on the porch, heartbroken. In her inebriated state, she feels a sudden compulsion to shred the wreath hanging on the front door, the bitterness of the gift now seeming too much to bear. Hunt catches her doing it, and Nina makes a scene that her family will never forget. She falls off the porch and twists her ankle, ranting and raving all the while. As the cab arrives, Hunt offers to carry her, but Nina stubbornly refuses and throws her shoe at the window of the front room. The crash of breaking glass awakens both her family and the policeman next door, and her children come downstairs. As Adam runs to see his mother, the child is just on the verge of stepping across broken glass when his dad steps forward --- barefoot --- saving him. The scene is enough to make Nina feel remorseful and for Hunt to, once again, become fed up. He carries his son back in the house and leaves Nina to the police.
After hitting rock bottom, Nina’s sister, Jill, takes the broken woman in. Jill lives in Nina's hometown of Abbey Hills, Missouri, and has arranged for a job for Nina as a waitress until she can get back on her feet. Nina was a vet before alcoholism took over and is hoping to save enough to return to Houston one day and open up her own practice. Returning to Abbey Hills is a difficult idea for Nina as it's a place she hasn't seen in 16 years. She left one terrible night when she was only 18 years old, not yet realizing that she had become pregnant. She hadn't faced her parents in all that time, and they had never met her children. They are overjoyed to get the opportunity now, but it's a hard situation for Nina to face.
Nina's daughter, Meagan, accompanies her for a week-long trip, the stay being arranged by her dad in an attempt to repair an extraordinarily strained mother-daughter relationship. Though Meagan is furious about the forced trip, Nina still holds on to the hope that she can begin to make up for years of hurt. The only catch is that Meagan's real father also lives in Abbey Hills and Nina doesn't want him to know about her. And there have been disturbing events on the news, with some animals nearby having been found mutilated and a young woman murdered. The community is in a state of panic, and the situation has escalated enough to make both Hunt and Nina nervous. Nina doesn't yet have the slightest clue that her sister lives next door to a vampire, but as the bodies begin to accumulate, Hunt will come to Abbey Hills himself to bring his daughter back.
Aside from the lore of the vampire, THIRSTY confines itself entirely to the real, Nina's dreams and pain being anchored in the harsh realities of life. On the surface, THIRSTY seems to be a supernatural thriller, but it's really a very well-written story about addiction, the vampire's thirst for blood being the true focus and not really all that different from an alcoholic's all-consuming compulsion to drink. Despite Nina's addiction, she manages somehow to be a person who readers can really care for and understand --- an amazing feat in light of the path of destruction she leaves. It is in witnessing Nina's attempts to restore her damaged relationships that readers experience the truly significant story of the book.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on October 6, 2009