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The Whole World Over Paperback – June 12, 2007
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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.
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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.
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Top customer reviews
The result is far from satisfying. Fans of home-made pastry may find introduction of gay characters distracting, fans of gay novels may find the kitchen sink part rather slow. The book does not come together - too many story-lines do not form a coherent network. It does have better parts (final chapters about 9/11 and the following days stand out) but you have to soldier on for several chapters to get there and sometimes one starts asking for a cast of characters conveniently placed on the cover. If this is your holiday reading, make sure to have some backup in case you got lost completely in the story. However, it may be a perfect choice for an All Inclusive holiday, the descriptions of food and restaurants will certainly keep you hungry all the time.
Anyway, I mentioned earlier that I sympathized with the people who gave up on this novel after a hundred pages or so, but I am glad that I stuck with it because Glass does return to glorious form in the last sixty pages or so, when the 9/11 attacks take place. Her coverage of the events of that day could have felt exploitative or overly dramatic but it isn't. At last she stopped cloying and hit upon some genuine emotion! Glass does a remarkable and admirable job of capturing the events of the day and the conflicting feelings that came with it (horror, panic, anger, sadness for those lost and joy for the people who called to say that they were safe). It is the best take on that day that I have read in a fiction book in the years that have followed, and it is just unfortunate that such perceptive observations and genuinely good writing is crammed into the last 60 pages of an otherwise mediocre novel. If there had been more like that I would be able to say that the book is worth recommending, but I can't bring myself to advise anyone to slog through 450 pages of trifle for one brief, heartbreaking moment of genius.