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Anne Phaneuf Advocates for Gabriella Burnham

Anne Phaneuf Advocates for Gabriella Burnham Picture

On the first page of Gabriella Burnham’s riveting, delightful first novel, our narrator Linda sits in the back seat of a cab navigating the noisy, steamy, congested streets of São Paolo. It is January, the middle of a hot Brazilian summer, and we look through Linda’s eyes at high-rise buildings, clothing lines, a man juggling oranges for money--and the general confusion of this teeming, exotic city. She and her husband Dennis, the “you” to whom Linda addresses her narrative (in a fascinating, innovative point of view), have left their lives in Hartford, Connecticut. They are on their way to the apartment where they will live for the next year, as Dennis is about to undertake a teaching residency at the University of São Paolo. Early on, Linda makes clear she has recently suffered a series of losses and is feeling unsure about their seven-year marriage. Dennis, thrilled by his new professional opportunity, is looking only straight ahead. As they begin to settle in, Linda, feeling increasingly restless and hungry for connection, reaches out to the land and people around her. In her relationships with Marta, Celia, and Melinda, Linda navigates the twists and turns of her own mind, as well as the streets and lush landscape where she finds herself.

Gabriella Burnham gives us a tender, probing look into the heart of a young woman whose desire for life, self-discovery, and intimate connection takes her on a beautiful and sometimes mysterious journey. Burnham’s vision is clear and richly crafted, an inviting, intriguing narrative that transported me--as only a skilled novelist can do--from a grey New England day to the tastes, music, and landscape of a lush, faraway world. A quick, but richly layered read!