Whole World Over (Review)

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The Whole World Over
Julia Glass, 2006
512 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
October 2007

I was feeling dejected—having just finished a number of books by well-known authors, none of which I could recommend. Then I picked up this beautiful book, and it may well be my recent favorite, along with Bel Canto.

Julia Glass (author of Three Junes, a 2002 National Book Award winner) populates this novel with a large cast of characters, each provided with a rich past and generous inner life.

She weaves those lives together—deftly, without being overly manipulative or controlling. Her characters' stories are so beautifully rendered that when she switches from one character to another, you follow eagerly.

The story opens with Greenie, a successful Manhattan pastry chef, who is offered a job by the charismatic governor of New Mexico. But that's only the warp through which the woof of multiple subplots are woven. (Yeah, I know, an over-worked metaphor.)

Characters yearn for connection and love. Dogs, infants, and children—of which there are many in this book—offer loyalty, even unconditional love. They alleviate loneliness but can do only so much. True intimacy must come in the form of consenting adults, an imperative that creates numerous missteps along the way.

In this work, accidents as well as deliberate decisions play a large role. The sky overarches all (the whole world over), providing both a sense of uncontrollable fate and connectedness. Things drop out of the sky—some beneficent, some not, most changing lives forever. And the actions of one individual affect the lives of the rest, directly or tangentially.

Whole World is a luscious read. If there is one criticism, it is that the ending drags somewhat, then comes to a sudden halt on a rather pat note. Things get wrapped up a bit too neatly. But that's a minor carp compared with the huge pleasure this work offers. Read it!

See our Reading Guide for The Whole World Over.

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