From a homey opener (chef Greenie Duquette bakes cinnamon buns in her Greenwich Village kitchen) to a final party a year and a half later (Greenie contributes a cake of ''vanilla, maple, orange, and coconut''), the extravagantly long new novel, The Whole World Over, from extravagantly talented Julia Glass is a voluptuous treat.
In leisurely chapters laden with detail Greenie never just bakes, she concocts ''a coffee cake rich with cardamom, orange zest, and grated gingerroot'' Glass explores the loneliness and longings of contemporary New Yorkers. Greenie earthy, practical is the book's emotional center, and around her revolve her chilly psychotherapist husband, Alan (''Whatever's the opposite of Latino that's you,'' Greenie tells him); Walter, a gay restaurateur obsessed with an unattainable paramour; and Saga, a brain-damaged young woman who rescues stray animals. Fenno McLeod, the Scottish bookseller from Glass' 2002 Three Junes, makes a welcome return in a supporting role.
What preoccupies these talky, well-fed characters (the baking should be a tip-off) is the desire for hearth, home, and above all, children. Greenie hankers after a baby, while Walter takes in a teen-age nephew. Alan coins the term ''baby crossroads'' for the conflict drawing couples to his couch, and he has his own extramarital brush with a baby-mad female. Glass sometimes overplays her nesting theme, but she breathes such warm life into her characters that you forgive her.