The Whole World Over (2006) 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… 2006-05-23 Fiction Pantheon
Book Review

The Whole World Over (2006)

EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: May 23, 2006; Writer: Julia Glass; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Pantheon

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.

Originally posted May 19, 2006 Published in issue #878 May 26, 2006 Order article reprints