I rarely pick up books blind unless I’m already familiar with the author. But every so often, the cover of a debut novel catches my eye, and I can’t get it out of my head. Gabriella Burnham’s It is Wood, It is Stone was one of those. It was enough to make me break my rule of not requesting ARCs for books on a whim. But, sometimes, taking a chance on a new author pays off.
What It’s About
It is Wood, It is Stone follows Linda, an American woman, as she moves to São Paulo, Brazil with her husband, Dennis. As Dennis begins his new job as a professor, Linda finds herself lost with nothing to occupy her time. After a rocky start with new new maid, Marta, Linda tries to search for new meaning in her life.
As she struggles with her marriage, herself, and the women she finds herself connected to, Linda must decide what she really wants in life.
I really enjoyed this book! The story felt a bit like the contemporary fiction being published today, but was different enough to set it apart. What immediately struck me was the writing. I have only read a few books that successfully used second-person point of view. This was one of them. This book is written to you, Dennis. I thought it was really clever, because it effectively establishes him as an outsider. This book feels like a memoir of what Linda was up to while Dennis was working, and a confession of the mistakes she made. It was striking and immediately drew me in.
I knew I would love Marta as soon as she made her appearance, and I was right. She was just so dynamic. Linda fell a little bit flat for me, if I’m being honest. She reminded me a little bit of Yeong-hye in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. Just a little bit distant from the reader. Which was strange, since she’s the narrator. And it was hard to get a handle on Dennis as a character. Linda is writing this story to him, so there really isn’t much character development there. I think most of the side characters made a bigger impact on me than Linda and Dennis, which felt I’m not sure I enjoyed.
One highlight of this book for me was reading about the things Linda struggles with. I’m sure everyone has had that feeling of “what the hell am I even doing with my life?” and Burnham captures that well in this book. Linda struggles with her marriage, her sexuality, and what those things mean for her identity. It just felt real, and I enjoyed reading it.
Overall, I did really like this. The writing itself drew me in more than the story did, which was an odd reading experience. But it was still a book that I wanted to keep reading, so I’m happy.
★★★★☆ – The story was a solid three stars for me. But the writing was definitely five stars, so I’m going with the average. It is Wood, It is Stone was a great debut novel. I will definitely be checking out what Gabriella Burnham comes out with next.
If you’re looking to read more diverse books (and you should), this is definitely one to check out. Not only was it written by a new Brazilian-American author, it features characters of color (Marta is Ghanaian) and queer or questioning characters.
This book was provided to me by Netgalley, all opinions are my own.
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