“A lush depiction of privilege and power, sex and stability . . . following three women in São Paulo . . . It Is Wood, It Is Stone is an elegant arrival of a new talent.”—Elle (One of the Most Anticipated New Books of Summer)
With sharp, gorgeous prose, It Is Wood, It Is Stone takes place over the course of a year in São Paulo, Brazil, in which two women’s lives intersect.
Linda, an anxious and restless American, has moved to São Paulo, with her husband, Dennis, who has accepted a yearlong professorship. As Dennis submerges himself in his work, Linda finds herself unmoored and adrift, feeling increasingly disassociated from her own body. Linda’s unwavering and skilled maid, Marta, has more claim to Linda’s home than Linda can fathom. Marta, who is struggling to make sense of complicated history and its racial tensions, is exasperated by Linda’s instability. One day, Linda leaves home with a charismatic and beguiling artist, whom she joins on a fervent adventure that causes reverberations felt by everyone, and ultimately binds Marta and Linda in a profoundly human, and tender, way.
An exquisite debut novel by young Brazilian American author Gabriella Burnham, It Is Wood, It Is Stone is about women whose romantic and subversive entanglements reflect on class and colorism, sexuality, and complex, divisive histories.
About the Author
Gabriella Burnham is a dual citizen of the United States and Brazil. Now a New York resident, she lived in São Paulo as a child and most of her family still lives there today. She holds an MFA in creative writing from The Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College and has been awarded fellowships to MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She has worked as a reporter, a creative writing teacher, and in immigration law. It Is Wood, It Is Stone is her first novel.
“It Is Wood, It Is Stone is a fever dream of a book; absolutely captivating and wonderfully destabilizing. I could not put it down. It is about uprootedness, class and color, and sex. It is about women on the verge—of collapse, of escape, of self-knowledge—failing and flailing and propping one another up. It is a book about the limits of propriety and the boundlessness of grace. Burnham is a writer of such remarkable insight, it’s impossible to believe this is her debut.”—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
“An absorbing and remarkably assured debut, It Is Wood, It Is Stone marries taut, cinematic suspense with intimate, textured domestic realism. Hits a major refresh button on the genre of psychological thriller and gives us something immensely satisfying and new.”—Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox
“Intimate, unsparing, and compassionate, It Is Wood, It Is Stone is unlike anything I’ve read. It’s a portrait of a woman adrift, but more than that, it’s a reflection on race, class, and privilege, rendered in beautifully observed and textured prose that describes hazy internal weather with gimlet clarity. Gabriella Burnham writes with generosity—and with sympathy for human imperfection—and captures so well the pain, envy, and expectations in life that make up each of our pasts, and linger into our present.”—Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin
“I would recommend this book based on the cover alone. Thankfully, the story inside is equally gorgeous, following three women in São Paulo: the anxious and listless Linda; her conflicted but steady maid, Marta; and Celia, an intoxicating artist with whom Linda leaves home. A lush depiction of privilege and power, sex and stability, It Is Wood, It Is Stone is an elegant arrival of a new talent.”—Elle
“Burnham’s captivating debut is told in a surprisingly seamless second person. . . . Burnham dazzles by exploring the overlapping circles of need and care though tensions of race, privilege, sexuality, history, and memory. Thanks to Burnham’s precise, vivid understanding of her characters, this stranger-comes-to-town novel has the feel of a thriller as it illuminates the obligations of emotional labor. Burnham pulls off an electrifying twist on domestic fiction.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)