All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

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Happy reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass

The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass, is another of her marvels. Glass intertwines the messy lives of her characters in a way that doesn’t feel contrived, and in this novel, unexpectedly but gracefully weaves in the tragic events of September 11.

The book centers on the life of pastry chef Greenie Duquette. Greenie was one of several names she was known by, and readers may wonder if these multiple names give identity to the stages in her life she undergoes or reflects on in the book. Greenie’s confections are introduced to the governor of New Mexico, whose politics deeply offend Greenie’s husband, Alan. Despite Alan’s opposition, Greenie accepts the governor’s lucrative job offer to become his private chef and moves from New York City to New Mexico with George, Alan and Greenie’s young son. Alan, who is a psychologist, claims his patients couldn’t bear for him to move and stays behind in New York, hoping Greenie will have a change of heart.

Walter is a likable character and dear friend of Greenie’s. Walter introduced Greenie’s delectable desserts to the governor, and is the owner of an intimate restaurant. Walter’s search for love and family is interwoven with Greenie’s, and we meet characters that include a short-term boyfriend, a miscreant nephew, a dog-walker, and Walter’s dog, “T.B.” (“The Bruce”).

And then there is Saga. Saga, who is also known by another name—Emily, is the victim of a head injury. With both parents deceased, she lives with an uncle, whose two daughters and one son seem to resent Saga’s presence. Saga’s recovery progresses, but she is still finding her way in a new world. An animal lover, she helps an eccentric “animal protector” and weaves her way into the lives of the other main characters.

The events of September 11 appear as suddenly in the book as they did in reality. Glass does an exceptional job describing the initial confusion her characters felt, the fear that followed, and the grim shift in their perspective on the world. Rather than focus on the facts of the loss, she follows her characters’ reactions and how their lives are impacted through their reaction to the event. Decisions are made as a result that dramatically shift the direction of their lives.

The Whole World Over was published in 2006 by Random House. Her most recent book is The Widower's Tale, previously reviewed on Cats and a Book. Her novel Three Junes won the National Book Award.

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