Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bookshelf: The Whole World Over

This is the second Julia Glass novel I've read, following Three Junes, for which she won the National Book Award. I've had my eye on this one for awhile and finally picked it up last weekend.
Greenie owns a bakery in lower Manhattan, and is married to Alan, a psychologist, with whom she has a son, George, who's about 5. Walter, Greenie's friend and owner of a local restaurant, gets Greenie a 'tryout' with the Governor of New Mexico--after tasting her coconut cake at Walter's, he wants to hire her as his personal chef. While their political opinions don't exactly mesh, he offers her the position. 
The offer comes at the right time for Greenie (whose real name is Charlotte). She and her husband haven't been getting along; she thinks it's some sort of midlife crisis. So she takes the job in New Mexico, brining her son with her. Alan is supposed to move out there with them. But he never does, only coming for occasional visits. 
While in New Mexico, Greenie reconnects with a former high school fling, and seriously considers beginning a relationship with him, after she discovers that Alan has fathered an illegitimate child with a former schoolmate. The two consider divorce but, as Alan bring George back to New York City to live with him, they never begin the proceedings. 
All of this is interrupted by the events of 9/11. This is the second 9/11 book I've read (the first being A Little Love Story, which is superb), and in this book the events are the catalyst for everyone to "come to their senses." Greenie flies back east, to her parents' cabin in Maine, where Alan and George have gone post-attack. Will there be a reconciliation?
The book's secondary characters are fantastic. There's Walter and his multiple, complex relationships; Saga, an epileptic who works for an animal rescue, and has a few run ins with Walter, Alan, and Fenno, a bookstore owner; Saga's family, including the domineering Michael; and of course, the clan in New Mexico, including the governor's chauffeur, "Big George." 
A theme throughout the book is nicknames, or misplaced names. Saga's real name is Emily; Greenie's is Charlotte, but she's called all sorts of things. Fenno even has a few different names in the novel. Identities and motives are not what they seem throughout the entire book. 
I liked this one better than Three Junes--it seemed to move faster. Both books involve lots of food, so it's not something I recommend to read if you're hungry. (My mistake) Some of the secondary plots seemed unnecessary, but all resolved satisfactorily. I would read this one before Three Junes, and I'll tackle Glass's third book, I See You Everywhere (about the relationship between sisters) once it's in paperback. 

1 comment:

nutmeg said...

I'm glad you posted this!

I need some good summer reading...