Second books are not supposed to be this good.
Julia Glass emerged as something of a literary phenomena in 2002 when her first book, Three Junes, came out of nowhere to win the National Book Award. It was a very good book. The Whole World Over is better.
Cinematic in its construction, The Whole World Over focuses on the intersecting lives of four characters: Greenie, a talented baker and chef who leaves New York and her husband for New Mexico; Alan, Greenie’s unhappy husband; Walter, a gay restaurant owner looking for love and stability; and Saga a physically and mentally broken young women.
There’s nothing ground-breaking in the themes Glass explores – loss, love, the consequences of the choices we make and have made for us. The power of The Whole World Over is in the fondness we develop for Glass’ vivid characters, both major and minor. We’d like to sit in Walter’s restaurant, eat a slice of Greenie’s cake or sit in her kitchen in the cool morning as she bakes. Glass' success, and it is considerable, is that her characters inhabit a larger world than the pages of her book. They also inhabit our imagination.