It is at Walter's restaurant that the visiting governor of New Mexico tastes Greenie's coconut cake and decides to woo her away from the city to be his chef. For reasons both ambitious and desperate, she accepts, and finds herself heading west without her husband. This impulsive decision will change the course of several lives within and beyond Greenie's orbit. Alan, alone in New York, must face down his demons; Walter, eager for platonic distraction, takes in his teenage nephew. Yet Walter cannot steer clear of love trouble, and despite his enforced solitude, Alan is still surrounded by women: his powerful sister; an old flame; and an animal lover named Saga, who grapples with demons all her own. As for Greenie, living in the shadow of a charismatic politician leads to a series of unforeseen consequences that separate her from her only child. We watch as folly, chance, and determination pull all these lives together and apart over a year that culminates in the fall of the twin towers at the World Trade Center, an event that will affirm or confound the choices each character has made, or has refused to face.
Julia Glass is at her best here, weaving a glorious tapestry of lives and lifetimes, of places and people, revealing the subtle mechanisms behind our most important, and often most fragile, connections to others. In The Whole World Over she has given us another tale that pays tribute to the extraordinary complexities of love.
©2006 Julia Glass; (P)2006 Books on Tape
"Glass brings the same assured narrative drive and engaging prose to this exploration of the quest for love and its tests: absence, doubt, infidelity, guilt, and loss." (Publishers Weekly)
"Glass deftly explor[es] the sacrifices, compromises, and leaps of faith that accompany love." (Booklist)
I was looking forward to this one; I read Three Junes (as a book-book, not an audiobook) and really liked it. But this narrator drove me crazy! She seemed to want to make every word seem special and wondrous, with this enthusiastic intonation that would have fit right in on Romper Room but got very tiresome for me after a few hours of listening. Her Scottish accent was very peculiar, and I *cringed* every time she spoke in the voice of Walter, the main gay character. Over all, I think the book itself wasn't as good as Three Junes either, but it was hard for me to tell for sure given how annoying I found the delivery.
Ms Glass' characters and scenes are as lively and engaging, as I've come to expect. I cared about them from first acquaintance and looked forward to each new "page". The diversity of living and loving arrangements was elucidating and fun.
But, just a word of forewarning for Audible listeners...there are LOTS of characters and locations whose lives and times interact and intertwine. This, coupled with the writing scheme that changes narrator/character and "time" frequently, can make it just a bit hard to follow while listening. Plan to back up a fair amount, or some might simply prefer to do this lovely book as a read rather than a listen.
I enjoyed both the narrator and the story of Julia Glass's first novel, The Three Junes. This one was narrated by a woman, instead of a man and my only criticism of the book is of her voice when doing the child, George, (whom I grew to dislike intensely and would predict that if he were a real, not a fictional character, he would grow up to be an eco-terrorist) grated on my nerves. Aside from the brat, the book is an engaging and wonderful 22 hours long.
I was delighted to find Fenno McCloud appearing in this book, as he was the main character in The Three Junes. I also liked the author's handling of the gay characters as real human beings, capable of grown up love, and not some limp-wristed parodies of themselves.
Were I not gluten intolerant I would sure love eating the wonderful cakes baked by the main character, Greenie, as she wins a coveted position as chef to the governor of New Mexico. I enjoyed the descriptions of the food items as well as the beauty of New Mexico. I liked her handling of 9/11 and the crazyness of that scene and what a profound effect, both direct and indirect, that it had on so many lives.
I am awaiting the next novel in hopes that Fern, who was a character in The Three Junes, will appear as did Fenno McCloud in this one.
I bought this because it was long. I kept listening because it was good. Not great, but very good. Good enough to keep listening, not great enough to keep listening thru the smallest distraction. I'd call this a cozy story, with familiar characters and pleasant settings. Transports you to the West Village effectively. Doesn't thrill nor disappoint.
While the temporal and geographic shifts, along with the sheer number of characters, made this novel more difficult to follow than Glass' Three Junes, it had a similar sweet, lyrical feeling, perhaps mixed with a bit of Anne Tyleresque oddity. I found myself caring about all the characters immensely, even when I didn't agree with their choices.
However, I must say that I agree with other reviewers' reaction to the narration. I found it distracting and just irritating. The voices for Greeny (too Romper Room, as another reviewer pointed out), George (if this were my child...), and, especially Walter (as a gay man, I found this voice actually offensive, which I've never encountered before) were particularly bothersome, but the entire narrative style detracted from the book.
You might be better off reading this book yourself. I give the book itself 5 stars, but took off one for the narration.
Don't you just love a great story well told?
The title of my review is truly the theme of "The Whole World Over" in which Ms. Glass weaves the intersecting relationships of many people. The characters are rich and fully thought out. You have to keep listening because you can't help wondering who will end up with who? Like life every character is loveable in many ways and loathesome in a few. Family relationships are dead on. This is not a book for prudes because all are represented, gay, straight, young, older, and even one handicapped, in an evenhanded and joyous manner. The narrator has the perfect soft tone to sound out all the love which is at the center of the theme of this wonderful book.
Nothing happens (of interest). As awful as it is to say but 9/11 was the only chance that the characters might display their core humanity when confronted by a real shock to their beliefs and sense of safety. They are just the same as before.
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