three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
By: 
Julia Glass
user_rating: 
0

A-TheWholeWorldOverIn New York’s West Village, characters cross paths as they search for love and belonging. Greenie Duquette, who owns a small bakery, delivers pastries to her gay friend Walter’s restaurant. Walter, embroiled in a confusing affair, helps Greenie’s pastries catch the eye of Ray McCrae, governor of New Mexico. Greenie soon leaves Alan, her flailing therapist husband, behind, and with her young son in tow, she starts to concoct her mouthwatering cakes at the governor’s mansion in Santa Fe. Back in New York, Saga, a young woman recovering from an accident, finds solace in an animal rescue group, while Alan grapples with life sans Greenie. All the while, 9/11 looms ahead.
Pantheon. 528 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0375422749

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Rather amazingly, Glass manages to avoid the maudlin in her book’s last 70 pages and generally be true to that fateful Tuesday in an atmospheric sense—downtown, at least. … The Whole World Over is a generous, tentacled, ensemble novel—Glass prefers a wide lens when she works, deploying many characters, and she sacrifices some depth for range (out of necessity)." Art Winslow

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"The same concerns come up again and again among the various characters; everyone is looking for their place in the world, and looking for the people they want to share it with them. … I foresee discussions in book groups and on blogs as readers try to decide if they think Glass’s use of Sept. 11 is moving and illuminating or slightly discomfiting, and I’m looking forward to being part of those discussions." Laurie Muchnick

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While the novel lacks the depth or emotional resonance of Three Junes, it is nonetheless an ambitiously realized tapestry of several intersecting lives. … Without giving anything away, I will say that the continuity of Glass’s imagined world takes over at the end, and the last 70 pages of The Whole World Over nearly make up for its failings." Gail Caldwell

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"With such a wide assemblage of characters, it would be easy to lose track without a scorecard, but Glass fully forms each and gives each a distinctive voice, in speech and in thoughts, certainly no mean feat. … She has a knack for making readers care about the whole lot of them, a true talent indeed." Carol Deptolla

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Just when the reader feels sure of an outcome, other forces are set to work, shifting the momentum in unexpected directions. This is particularly admirable because Glass is so unobtrusive a writer, conveying meaning not through insightful asides, philosophical musings or verbal pyrotechnics but through storytelling." Lorraine Adams

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Glass submerses her readers in the realistically rendered disorder of her characters’ lives while keeping her story moving, but both books are marred by fairy tale elements. … [She] catches just right the social nuances, details of place and voices in her subsidiary tales: New Mexico power ranching, a high-WASP summer compound off the coast of Maine, a New Jersey fusty academic." Maya Muir

Baltimore Sun 1 of 5 Stars
"Car crashes aside, it’s not a stretch to feel that Glass’s characters are wrecked too, and now cast, through choice and circumstance, outside the thrum and hum of normal life. … Ultimately, this whole world is, simply, overdone." Lizzie Skurnick

Critical Summary

In her second novel, Julia Glass, author of the National Book Award–winning Three Junes (2002), again tells a tale of overlapping lives. While some critics compared Whole World Over to her debut novel and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, most agree that Glass’s latest effort, while still compelling, delivers a less powerful punch. Critics generally praised the fleshed-out characters (including Fenno McLeod from Three Junes), who move to and from New York, New Mexico, Maine, Massachusetts, and California. More debated the details—the use of 9/11 as a literary device and the lavish descriptions of coconut and chocolate cakes, for example. If not as acclaimed as Three Junes, Whole World Over reveals Glass’s ample talents.