the queen of water

Co-written with Maria Virginia Farinango, this novel based on a true story begins in an impoverished Andean village where seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her indigenous family to be an unpaid servant in a mestizo household. For the next eight years, she struggles to hold on to her spirit. After escaping as a teenager, she must build a life for herself and reclaim her identity.

Ages 12 & up, Delacorte/Random House, 2011, available as hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

awards and honors


* "This is a poignant coming-of-age novel that will expose readers to the exploitation of girls around the world whose families grow up in poverty." -- School Library Journal, STARRED

* "Narrating in a singular, authentic voice, Virginia dreams of escape, but her broken identity leaves her directionless. Along the way, though, she employs her imagination, persistence, and hard-won wisdom to recover her strength and freedom. The authors' candid narrative richly depicts Virginia's passage from a childhood filled with demoralization to a young woman who sees her life through new eyes." -- Publishers Weekly, STARRED

* "A moving, lyrical novel that will particularly resonate with teens caught between cultures." -- Booklist, STARRED

* "[A] riveting tale... Bright spots of humor and warmth are woven throughout, and readers will agonize for Virginia while seething at her tormentors. The complexities of class and ethnicity within Ecuadorian society are explained seamlessly within the context of the first-person narrative, and a glossary and pronunciation guide further help to plunge readers into the novel's world... By turns heartbreaking, infuriating and ultimately inspiring." -- Kirkus, STARRED

"A richly described coming-of-age story set in a culture both foreign and familiar... by turns shocking and funny." -- VOYA


Photo credit, Ken Burgess

Photo credit, Ken Burgess


maria virginia

  • See Maria Virginia's updated bio and contact info here.

blog post links

  • Here you can read more about The Queen of Water and see photos of Maria Virginia as a teen in a real-life scene that also appears in the book.
  • Here you can see photos of Maria Virginia dancing at Laura's release party for The Indigo Notebook (also set in the Ecuadorian Andes).
  • Here you can see photos of Maria Virginia at a party in her honor with our good friends who helped us with The Queen of Water.
  • Here you can get the inside scoop on the cover design.
  • Here you can read about how Laura used her cultural anthropology background in writing The Queen of Water.
  • Here you can read a deleted scene from The Queen of Water.
  • Here you can read about why Laura and Maria Virginia decided to slightly fictionalize her story.
  • Here you can read about Laura's research trips to the Ecuadorian Andes, get Andean recipes, and see photos of the setting of The Queen of Water.
  • Here is a link to all posts on my blog labeled The Queen of Water. (After clicking the link, please continue scrolling down and clicking on "Older Posts" to read further.)
photo credit Ken Burgess

photo credit Ken Burgess

Maria Virginia and Laura split their advance and royalties for this book in half, each receiving 50%. In addition, Laura donates 5% of her royalties to indigenous rights organizations in Latin America, including the Tandana Foundation (empowerment through education in Ecuador) and Reading Village (empowerment through education in Guatemala.)

order the book

You can order the book on Barnes and Noble, indiebound, amazon, or at Old Firehouse Books (for signed copies).

The Queen of Water  is not yet available in Spanish (we're working on that!)... but it is available in Thai!

The Queen of Water is not yet available in Spanish (we're working on that!)... but it is available in Thai!