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THE WHOLE WORLD OVER by Julia Glass Kirkus Star


by Julia Glass

Pub Date: June 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-375-42274-9
Publisher: Pantheon

The cultures of Manhattan and New Mexico, straight and gay relationships, parents and children, are sensitively explored in Glass’s replete successor to her NBA-winning debut novel, Three Junes (2002).

One of that book’s principals, Fenno McLeod, pops in from time to time, but he’s effectively upstaged by Glass’s effervescent protagonist Charlotte Greenaway (“Greenie”) Duquette, an accomplished pastry chef whose creations attract the hungry attention of the abovementioned state’s knee-jerk conservative, ebulliently skirt-chasing Governor Ray McCrae. When Greenie accepts an invitation to move southwest and concoct sinful delicacies for Governor Ray, she takes along her lively, formidably articulate four-year-old George, leaving her husband, psychotherapist Alan Glazier, to his increasingly demanding patients and his own depressive thoughts about the hitherto happy marriage from which both he and Greenie seem to be detaching themselves. Meanwhile, Glass adroitly fills in everybody’s backstory, including those of Greenie’s best pal Walter, a gay restaurateur with his own relationship issues (which he tends to confide to his dyspeptic Scottish terrier, affectionately known as “The Bruce”). Action, reflection and detailed flashbacks thus move smoothly, between geographical polarities, and among the conflicting viewpoints of variously involved other characters. For example, Alan’s practice acquaints him with a male pair of prospective parents, one of whom is the lawyer (Gordie) for whom Walter not-so-subtly lusts. Glass stumbles somewhat with the character of Saga, a young woman whose memory loss and poignant rootlessness rather too pointedly underscore this novel’s otherwise absorbing analyses of “human emotions and personal histories.” Thankfully, there’s always Governor Ray, chortling and backslapping, shaking the novel alive whenever it veers toward soppiness.

Glass knows what she’s doing. Readers who love quirky characters and a gentle wit that breathes affection even as it skewers human foolishness and frailty will follow her anywhere.