THE WHOLE WORLD OVER by Julia Glass

First, a quick thank you to everyone who wrote in response to my first blog post. I am looking forward to writing the blog, and I also encourage you to write in with comments and suggestions. To answer a few questions that I have been asked so far:

1) Yes, please write in about books you have liked, books you haven’t liked, reviews you’ve read, questions about books and reading, etc. I will post lists of recommended books, and always welcome guest posts. I may aggregate book recommendations into weekly or biweekly posts, so if you don’t see your recommendations right away, that’s why.

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Ok, on to the topic at hand.

037542274901 Many people have have recommended Three Junes to me since it won the National Book Award in 2002.  I bought it at a used book sale a few years ago, but, of course, haven’t gotten to it yet. Well, if you’re one of the ones who read it and loved it, Julia Glass has a new book out: The Whole World Over.  Amazon user reviews are a little mixed (though mostly positive), but Entertainment Weekly gave it an A- when it came out in May. Warning: it’s long (512 pages). I still would like to read Three Junes first (especially because there are characters in it who appear in The Whole World Over) and I must confess that I tend to get bored with too much detail about food and cooking, but if you’re one of the many who have already been favorably exposed to Julia Glass, this may be worth a try.

Here’s the EW review:

From a homey opener (chef Greenie Duquette bakes cinnamon buns in her Greenwich Village kitchen) to a final party a year and a half later (Greenie contributes a cake of ”vanilla, maple, orange, and coconut”), the extravagantly long new novel, The Whole World Over, from extravagantly talented Julia Glass is a voluptuous treat.

In leisurely chapters laden with detail — Greenie never just bakes, she concocts ”a coffee cake rich with cardamom, orange zest, and grated gingerroot” — Glass explores the loneliness and longings of contemporary New Yorkers. Greenie — earthy, practical — is the book’s emotional center, and around her revolve her chilly psychotherapist husband, Alan (”Whatever’s the opposite of Latino — that’s you,” Greenie tells him); Walter, a gay restaurateur obsessed with an unattainable paramour; and Saga, a brain-damaged young woman who rescues stray animals. Fenno McLeod, the Scottish bookseller from Glass’ 2002 Three Junes, makes a welcome return in a supporting role.

What preoccupies these talky, well-fed characters (the baking should be a tip-off) is the desire for hearth, home, and above all, children. Greenie hankers after a baby, while Walter takes in a teen-age nephew. Alan coins the term ”baby crossroads” for the conflict drawing couples to his couch, and he has his own extramarital brush with a baby-mad female. Glass sometimes overplays her nesting theme, but she breathes such warm life into her characters that you forgive her.

Grade: A-

Here are links to a few more reviews of The Whole World Over from The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times (subscription required).

Have you read The Whole World Over? Send in a comment.

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