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The Whole World Over: A Novel Hardcover – May 23, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (May 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422744
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her second rich, subtle novel, Glass reveals how the past impinges on the present, and how small incidents of fate and chance determine the future. Greenie Duquette has a small bakery in Manhattan's West Village that supplies pastries to restaurants, including that of her genial gay friend Walter. When Walter recommends Greenie to the governor of New Mexico, she seizes the chance to become the Southwesterner's pastry chef and to take a break from her marriage to Alan Glazier, a psychiatrist with hidden issues. Taking their four-year-old son, George, with her, Greenie leaves for New Mexico, while figures from her and Alan's pasts challenge their already strained marriage. Their lives intersect with those of such fully dimensional secondary characters as Fenno McLeod, the gay bookseller from Three Junes; Saga, a 30-something woman who lost her memory in an accident; and Saga's Uncle Marsden, a Yale ecologist who takes care of her. While this work is less emotionally gripping than Three Junes, Glass brings the same assured narrative drive and engaging prose to this exploration of the quest for love and its tests—absence, doubt, infidelity, guilt and loss.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Greenie Duquette loves her cozy life in the West Village, her work as a pastry chef, and her precocious young son. But she is fed up with her husband, Alan, an underemployed psychotherapist whose once passionate beliefs are ossifying into reflexive bitterness. When, in early 2000, the brash Republican governor of New Mexico offers her a lucrative job, she jumps at it; Alan is free to follow her if he chooses. In Glass's sprawling follow-up to her award-winning novel "Three Junes," a dozen or so characters are plunged into the tumultuous dissatisfactions and challenges of middle age, their paths crossing and recrossing with a pleasing mixture of chance and inevitability. Glass is fascinated by the ways people gamble both with and for their happiness, but her characters are a little too decent, generous, and forgiving. Even as we watch their dramas unfold in the shadow of 9/11, the potential horror of irrevocable choices eludes us.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker - click here to subscribe.

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Customer Reviews

I persevered and finished this book but it was much too long.
Eleanor Arlene
If Julia Glass had not set the bar so high with Three Junes, I would have given the book 3 stars instead of 2.
Katherine Briggs
Main problems: A. I didn't find Greenie a very interesting or sympathetic character.
Alyssa Donati

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As many of the reviewers of this book are, I am a great fan of Julia Glass' first book, "Three Junes", and had eagerly been waiting for her follow-up. I was dismayed to read so many middling reviews of "The Whole World Over," but was determined to give it a try myself. I really wanted to like the book, but a hundred pages in I found myself disappointedly sympathizing with the reviewers on this site who had given up at that point and had no remorse about not continuing. I kept reading out of loyalty to Glass -- and to the fact that I hadn't actually liked the first part of "Three Junes" either, and I wound up loving that novel in the end. Unfortunately, "The Whole World Over" doesn't pick up the way her first book did. The characters just aren't very involving, and their stories don't make you want to find out more about them. They are very grounded and thought-out, but ultimately feel more planned than realistic. There is also a very disjointed narrative structure that awkwardly transitions, in each chapter, from 2000-2001 (when the present-day action is unfolding) to some point in the past of whichever character that chapter is about, and then back to the present. The cast of characters is a little too crowded as well, particularly for the narrative form Ms. Glass has chosen. Storylines are constantly getting put on hold to switch to another one, and since none of them are very interesting it only serves to distance you further from the action. Glass also seems to have developed a taste for cutesy language that feels cloying -- and her efforts to nickname each of her characters becomes grating after a while. She also falls into the trap of over-using the words like, totally, dude, and man in the dialogue of her younger, teen or twenty-something characters.Read more ›
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64 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa Donati on July 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ADORED The Three Junes and was eagerly waiting for another novel from Ms. Glass but only got halfway through this book. I wanted to keep reading because I still think the author is extremely talented but unfortunately it just didn't capture my interest. Main problems:

A. I didn't find Greenie a very interesting or sympathetic character.

B. Story lumbers along very slowly.

C. I could sense the author WRITING the book as I was reading it which makes it very hard to immerse yourself in the story.

D. There are many different story lines in The Whole World Over and everytime I picked up the book it felt like I was reading a completely different novel -- this disjointed sensation never allowed me to get close to the characters or to enter their world.

I hate to write a bad review because I still think Ms. Glass is a brilliant writer. I highly recommend her first book which was utterly gorgeous and truly magical.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Paul Asman on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like many of the other reviewers, I did not find this book as instantly compelling as Three Junes. But that's okay; it has other virtues. I find its strongest virtue best described through something else that it's not.

The Whole World Over takes place largely on Bank Street in New York City and in Santa Fe, but, with one exception I'll cover later, it's not evocative of either. (I've worked in lower Manhattan for the last 25 years, a friend of mine lives on Bank Street, and I spend a week and a half in Santa Fe every August.) I assume that this is deliberate, and I assume that it's meant to focus us on what matters in this novel: the creation of family.

Many of the characters - and there are many characters - come from families that don't function well. These characters respond by creating their own families, through sex and friendship. In Santa Fe, this doesn't work out, but to focus on Santa Fe would distract our attention from why it doesn't. One of the main characters, Greenie, goes from Bank Street to Santa Fe and back to Bank Street, with excursions to Maine. It doesn't matter where she is; it matters where she can create an enduring family. Both New York and Santa Fe seem strangely under-populated in this book, as if the only characters there are the ones in the novel. The created families become the neighborhoods.

There is one exception to this, I thought. Five years after the fact, I still find it uncomfortable to think of September 11, 2001, in lower Manhattan. Julia Glass does a great job of invoking this discomfort. The attack on the World Trade Center is focused through Saga, another of the many main characters. Saga is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and at first she can't figure out what was happening.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Japan Reader on January 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I wasn't originally as in love with "Three Junes" as much of the world seemed to be -- part of me wonders cynically if its American Book Award wasn't due to it being a paean to New York City life in many ways -- but each time I've re-read it I've gotten more out of it, so I guess the award was legitimate. Vivid characters and situations, well-told.

But I can't imagine reading this book even one more time. It was light; that was the biggest point in its favor. Otherwise I thought the characters were mostly cardboard, and mostly unlikable, Greenie especially. I never warmed to her and by the end actually disliked her. There wasn't enough passion in her relationship with Charlie to make that come to life, and her problems seemed, as a friend of mine says, to be "those of a blond in a yacht" -- ie, not so huge. This is a problem of characterization.

The plot was also messy and too long. And while I do understand that people write to make sense of historical events, I find the leap to use 9/11 in books a bit tasteless. In this particular case it seemed extraneous, as if the book was running out of steam and the author felt it needed something to keep peoples' attention. 9/11 almost guarantees that, yes, but it was a bit soap-opera-ish -- as was the whole book.

So, a good enough airplane read. But not much more. I hope Julia can return to the sort of writing of "The Three Junes" with her next book.
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