Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'Extravagantly long' novel is worth the read, if a little manipulating

The Whole World Over: A Novel The Whole World Over: A Novel by Julia Glass

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This novel by the National Award Book winning author of The Three Junes, Julia Glass, tells the story, primarily, of pastry chef Greenie Duquette and her unlikable psychoanalyst husband, Alan. What I especially enjoyed was the story being told through the eyes of four different but connected characters: Greenie, Alan, Walter (Greenie’s gay restaurateur friend) and Saga (a woman trying to carve out a life for herself after a massive brain injury). The stories start in New York City but follow the unhappy couple to Santa Fe for a bit.

I enjoyed discovering and unraveling the mysteries of the interesting and diverse characters in The Whole World Over. However, (spoiler alert) I have to say I felt somewhat cheated and certainly manipulated when, after 500 pages (the book, by the way, has been described as "extravagantly long" at 562 pages) of painstaking character development on not only these four storylines but also those of corollary characters, the book suddenly turns into a story about/is interrupted by 9/11. And I do realize that 9/11 did just rip through the lives of New Yorkers (and everyone) in a split second, it’s just not what I expected of this novel's denouement. An example of the "manipulation" would be when poor, brain-injured Saga gets trapped in Manhattan with an inability to understand why the sky is raining papers and ash, why people are running through the streets and gaping up at where the Twin Towers once stood.

Suddenly, all of the intertwined stories are just prologue to this horrible chapter in our nation’s history.

Still, it was a complex and compelling story. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of whatever talented chef Greenie was cooking: From apricot scones to lamb seared in ancho chili paste on polenta with two chutneys: pear & mint.

You can tell Glass is a foodie.

Also, you can tell I’m writing this before dinner.

View all my reviews.

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