Read The Whole World Over Online

Authors: Julia Glass

The Whole World Over

The Whole
World Over

'Gorgeous . . . [a] delicious, delightful, and deeply satisfying tale . . .
Glass is a wise woman indeed – she knows how families try our
patience and break our hearts, even as they make us who we are;
how choices, sometimes even the wrong ones, define our lives when
we least expect it; how dogs win our hearts, how people need each
other. Surely and smartly, she shows us what matters, what endures.'

New Orleans Times-Picayune

'The extravagantly long new novel from extravagantly talented
Julia Glass is a voluptuous treat . . . In leisurely chapters laden with
detail [she] explores the loneliness and longings of contemporary
New Yorkers . . . Glass breathes warm life into her characters.'

Entertainment Weekly

'Enormously appealing and inventive . . . sure to solidify Julia Glass's
reputation as one of America's most talented younger novelists.'

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

'[A] bouillabaisse of a tale, where lives intertwine and intersect in
complex and random ways. Glass effortlessly weaves us back and
forth from past to present and through a dozen or so lives . . . [she]
is at her best when she dissects and illuminates her characters.'

Chicago Sun-Times

'Glass's novel is psychologically adroit and emotionally gripping. It's
hard not to think about her characters between chapters, to
worry about their choices, to celebrate their transformations . . .
The Whole World Over
is beautiful and satisfying, chock-full of
the gorgeous, heartbreaking stuff that makes life worth living.'

Rocky Mountain News

'[A] generous, tentacled, ensemble novel . . . [Glass] is deft at the
quick portraiture and character shorthand that this novelistic
approach requires.'

Los Angeles Times Book Review

'Glass pins down these lives with verve, precision, and depth . . . A
wise book, with breadth as well as depth.'

The Oregonian

'Rich, dense, brimming with life . . . Glass plunges each character into
life's full network of connections, delivering a vivid, intoxicating
panorama of relationships that includes spouse, children, neighbors,
friends, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, past lovers, almost lovers,
dogs, shopkeepers, bosses, colleagues and all the fantasy relationships
that flow into the hollows love leaves . . . Relationships in
Julia Glass's work are living, breathing things, full of love and
laughter and irritation and betrayal – the best and worst of life.'

San Diego Union-Tribune

'Glass's second novel is beautifully written, impossible to
summarize, and weirdly compelling through all of its pages.'

Blueprint

'In her second rich, subtle novel, Glass reveals how the past impinges
on the present, and how small incidents of fate and chance determine
the future . . . Glass brings . . . 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 is masterful at drawing the reader deep into the lives of her
characters . . . an absorbing book.'

The Plain Dealer

'Glass's second novel is an engrossing story with lush descriptions
and vivid characters. She has a knack for making readers care about
the whole lot of them.'

Lexington Herald-Ledger

'Glass's long but always captivating tale is a quilt of many colors and
motivations whose strongest threads are love of family and sense of self.'

Library Journal

'[A] rich, lushly painted . . . literary buffet; a multi-course meal
seasoned with everything that is heartbreaking and human about
love, emotional pain, and joy.'

Bay Area Reporter

'Julia Glass's sprawling second novel is a medley of geographic locales,
little and large emotional sagas, and things that go bump in the night –
the terrors, private or collective, that wake us and make us change our
lives . . . [An] ambitiously realized tapestry of several intersecting lives.'

Boston Globe

About the author

Julia Glass, winner of the National Book Award for her novel
Three Junes
, was a 2004–2005 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for
Advanced Study. She has received grants from the National
Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts,
and her short stories have been honored with three Nelson Algren
Awards and the Tobias Wolff Award. Until recently a longtime New
Yorker, she now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

ALSO BY JULIA GLASS

Three Junes

Julia Glass

The Whole
World Over

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

ISBN 9781409064824

Version 1.0

www.randomhouse.co.uk

Published by Arrow Books in 2007

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Copyright © Julia Glass 2006

The right of Julia Glass to be identified as the author of this work has been
asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the
product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental

First published in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson in 2006

Arrow Books
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Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be
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A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library

ISBN: 9781409064824

Version 1.0

For Dennis

"Black as the Devil, heavy as sin, sweet as young love," is
the way an Englishman has described the ceremonial
cakes of his country; solid, romantic, and frequently
good, but with quite a different kind of goodness from
our own more casual sort.

—Louis P. De Gouy
The Gold Cook Book

Do you know where I found him?
You know where he was?
He was eating a cake in the tub!
Yes he was!
The hot water was on
And the cold water, too.
And I said to the cat,
"What a bad thing to do!"

"But I like to eat cake
In a tub," laughed the cat.
"You should try it some time,"
Laughed the cat as he sat.

—Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

I
A
Piece
of Cake
ONE

THE CALL CAME ON THE TWENTY-NINTH OF FEBRUARY
: the
one day in four years when, according to antiquated custom,
women may openly choose their partners without shame. As Greenie
checked her e-mail at work that morning, a small pink box popped up
on the screen:
Carpe diem, ladies!
Scotland, according to her cheery,
avuncular service provider, passed a law in 1288 that if a man refused a
woman's proposal on this day, he must pay a fine: anything from a kiss
to money that would buy her a silk dress or a fancy pair of gloves.

If I weren't hitched already, thought Greenie, I would gladly take
rejection in exchange for a lovely silk dress. Oh for the quiet, sumptuous
ease of a silk dress; oh for the weather in which to wear it!

Yet again it was sleeting. Greenie felt as if it had been sleeting for a
week. The sidewalks of Bank Street, tricky enough in their skewed
antiquity, were now glazed with ice, so that walking George to school
had become a chore of matronly scolding and pleading: "Walk, honey.
Please walk. What did I say, did I say WALK?" Like most four-year-old
boys, George left his house like a pebble from a slingshot, careening off
parked cars, brownstone gates, fences placed to protect young trees
(apparently not just from urinating dogs), and pedestrians prickly from
too little coffee or too much workaday dread.

Greenie was just shaking off the ill effects of what she called VD
whiplash: VD as in Valentine's Day, an occasion that filled her with necessary
inspiration as January waned, yet left her in its wake—if business
was good—vowing she would never, ever again bake anything shaped
like a heart or a cherub or put so much as a drop of carmine dye in a
bowl of buttercream icing.

As if to confirm her fleeting disenchantment with all that stood for
romantic love, she and Alan had had another of the fruitless, bitter
face-offs Greenie could never seem to avoid—and which, in their small
apartment, she feared would awaken and worry George. This one had
kept her up till two in the morning. She hadn't bothered to go to bed,
since Tuesday was one of the days on which she rose before dawn to
bake brioche, scones, cinnamon rolls, and—Tuesdays only—a coffee
cake rich with cardamom, orange zest, and grated gingerroot: a cunningly
savory sweet that left her work kitchen smelling like a fine Indian
restaurant, a brief invigorating change from the happily married scents
of butter, vanilla, and sugar (the fragrance, to Greenie, of ordinary life).

Dead on her feet by ten in the morning, she had forgotten the telephone
message she'd played back the evening before: "Greenie dear, I
believe you'll be getting a call from a VIP tomorrow; I won't say who
and I won't say why, but I want it on the record that it was
I
who told
him what a genius you are. Though I've just now realized that he may
spirit you away! Idiot me, what was I thinking! So call me, you have to
promise you'll
call me
the minute you hear from the guy. Bya!" Pure
Walter: irritating, affectionate, magnanimous, coy. "Vee Aye Pee," he
intoned breathlessly, as if she were about to get a call from the Pope.
More likely some upstate apple grower who'd tasted her pie and was
trolling for recipes to include in one of those springbound charity cookbooks
that made their way quickly to yard sales and thrift shops. Or
maybe this: the Director of Cheesecake from Junior's had tasted hers—a
thousandfold superior to theirs—and wanted to give her a better-paid
but deadly monotonous job in some big seedy kitchen down in Brooklyn.
What, in Walter's cozy world, constituted a VIP?

Walter was the owner and gadabout host (not the chef; he couldn't
have washed a head of lettuce to save his life) of a retro-American tavern
that served high-cholesterol, high-on-the-food-chain meals with
patriarchal hubris. Aptly if immodestly named, Walter's Place felt like a
living room turned pub. On the ground floor of a brownstone down the
street from Greenie's apartment, it featured two fireplaces, blue-checked
tablecloths, a fashionably weary velvet sofa, and (Board of Health be
damned) a roving bulldog named The Bruce. (As in Robert the Bruce?
Greenie had wondered but never asked; more likely the dog was named
after some fetching young porn star, object of Walter's cheerfully futile
longing. He'd never been too explicit about such longings, but he made
allusions.) Greenie wasn't wild about the Eisenhower-era foods with
which Walter indulged his customers—indulgence, she felt, was the
province of dessert—but she had been pleased when she won the
account. Over the past few years, she had come to think of Walter as an
ally rather than a client.

Except for the coconut cake (filled with Meyer lemon curd and glazed
with brown sugar), most of the desserts she made for Walter were not her
best or most original, but they were exemplars of their kind: portly, solid-citizen
desserts, puddings of rice, bread, and noodles—sweets that the
Pilgrims and other humble immigrants who had scraped together their
prototypes would have bartered in a
Mayflower
minute for Greenie's
blood-orange mousse, pear ice cream, or tiny white-chocolate éclairs.
Walter had also commissioned a deep-dish apple pie, a strawberry marble
cheesecake, and a layer cake he asked her to create exclusively for
him. "Everybody expects one of those, you know, death-by-chocolate
things on a menu like mine, but what I want is massacre by chocolate,
execution by chocolate—
firing squad
by chocolate!" he told her.

So that very night, after tucking George in bed, Greenie had returned
to the kitchen where she made her living, in a basement two blocks from
her home, and stayed up till morning to birth a four-layer cake so dense
and muscular that even Walter, who could have benched a Shetland
pony, dared not lift it with a single hand. It was the sort of dessert that
appalled Greenie on principle, but it also embodied a kind of überprosperity,
a transgressive joy, flaunting the potential heft of butter, that Protean
substance as wondrous and essential to a pastry chef as fire had
been to early man.

Walter christened the cake Apocalypse Now; Greenie held her
tongue. By itself, this creation doubled the amount of cocoa she ordered
from her supplier every month. After it was on his menu for a week,
Walter bet her a lobster dinner that before the year was out,
Gourmet
would request the recipe, putting both of them on a wider culinary map.
If that came to pass, Greenie would surrender to the vagaries of fleeting
fame, but right now the business ran as smoothly as she could have
hoped. She had a diligent assistant and an intern who shopped, cleaned,
made deliveries, and showed up on time. The amount of work they all
shared felt just right to Greenie; she could not have taken an order
for one more tiny éclair without enlarging the enterprise to a degree
where she feared she would begin to lose control. Alan said that what
she really feared was honestly growing up, taking her lifelong ambition
and molding it into a Business with a capital B. Greenie resented his
condescension; if Business with a capital B was the goal of growing up,
what was he doing as a private psychotherapist working out of a backdoor
bedroom that should have belonged to George, who slept in an
alcove off their living room meant for a dining room table? Which
brought up the subject of George: was Alan unhappy that Greenie's
work, on its present scale, allowed her to spend more time with their
son than a Business with a capital B would have done?

"Delegation," said Alan. "It's called delegation."

This was the sort of bickering that passed too often now between
them, and if Greenie blamed Alan for starting these quarrels, she blamed
herself for plunging into the fray. Stubbornly, she refused to back down
for the sake of greater domestic harmony or to address the underlying
dilemma. The overlying dilemma, that much was clear. Through the past
year, as Greenie began to turn away clients, Alan was losing them. His
schedule had dwindled to half time, and the extra hours it gave him with
George did not seem to console him.

Alan, two years away from forty, had reached what Greenie privately
conceived of as the Peggy Lee stage in life: Is That All There Is? Greenie
did not know what to do about this. She would have attacked the problem
head on if the sufferer had been one of her girlfriends, but Alan was
a man, chronically resentful of direction. When he was with friends, his
argumentative nature was his strength, a way of challenging the world
and its complacencies, but in private—alone with Greenie—he fell prey
to defensiveness and nocturnal nihilism. She had known this before they
married, but she had assumed this aspect of his psyche would burn off,
under the solar exposure of day-to-day affection, like cognac set aflame
in a skillet. Next year they would be married ten years, and it had not.

In their first years together, she had loved the wakefulness they shared
late at night. After sex, Alan did not tumble into a callow sleep, the way
most men claimed they could not resist doing. Like Greenie, he would
be alert for another half hour or more. They would talk about their
days, their dreams (both sleeping and waking), their notions on the fate
of mankind. When it came to worldly matters, the voice of doubt would
be Alan's—mourning or raging that genocide would never end, that
presidents would never be moral, that children would always be abducted
by men who would never be caught—but he was invariably passionate,
and back then, Greenie saw hope in that passion. He loved Greenie
expressively, eloquently, in a way she felt she had never been loved.

When they had been sleeping together—or not-sleeping together—
nearly every night for a month, she asked, "Why do you suppose we're
like this? Why can't we just go to sleep, like the rest of the exhausted
people around us?" They were lying in Alan's bed, in the never-quite-dark
of a city night.

He said, "Me, I think too much. Not a good thing."

"Why? Why is that not good?"

"It wears down your soul. It's like grinding your spiritual teeth," he
said. "Dreaming is the healthy alternative. Even nightmares once in a
while. Sometimes a nightmare is like a strong wind sweeping through a
house."

Greenie had noticed early on that first thing every morning, often
before getting out of bed, Alan wrote his dreams in a leather book the
size of a wallet. "What about me?" she said. "Do I think too much?"

"Not you." He pulled her closer against his side. "With you, I can
only imagine that some part of your waking soul just can't bear to see
another magnificent day in the life of Greenie Duquette come to an
end."

"That's very poetic," said Greenie, "but it's malarkey."

"When I'm with you," he said, "I love not getting to sleep." He
kissed her and kissed her, and then they did fall asleep. The next day, on
the phone with her mother, she said she'd met an incredible man, that
she had fallen in love. Her mother teased her that it wasn't the first time,
and Greenie said yes, this was true, but she had a hunch it would be
the last.

Consistent with all the evolutions and revolutions of married life,
their wakeful late-night musings came to an end when they had George.
In those early months, starved of sleep, their thinking selves would
plummet toward oblivion once they lay down. But Alan still slept so
lightly that he was nearly always the first to rise and comfort George
when he cried. By the time Greenie stumbled to consciousness, there
was her baby, in his father's arms, being soothed until she was ready
to nurse. Alan's only complaint was that waking up so often and so
urgently made it hard for him to remember his dreams. Along with
so many other habits once taken for granted, the little book went by the
wayside. Now Greenie wondered if Alan had needed it more than she
understood.

Greenie could not point to a specific moment when Alan's sober but
passionate view of the world might have tipped into a hardened pessimism,
and she reminded herself that he was still a loving, patient
father—but what if that pessimism was genetic? Could it lie dormant in
George?

When the loaves and cakes she had baked sat cooling on racks,
Greenie filled the larger sink with all the loaf pans and whisks, cups and
spoons and mixing bowls. Sherwin would show up later to wash them,
but Greenie wiped down the counters herself, several times a day. She
had made this place—an old boiler room in the basement of a nondescript
tenement building—into her private kingdom. Around the perimeter,
the walls and cupboards were white, the countertops made of
smooth, anonymous steel, but the linoleum tiles that Alan had helped
her lay on the floor were gladiola red. The only windows ran along the
ceiling at sidewalk level: wide yet narrow, like gunports in a bunker.
Sometimes, organizing bills or tinkering with recipes, Greenie sat on a
stool at the butcher-block island and watched the ankles passing by
these windows. Now and then a dog pressed its face between the bars
against the glass, spotted her and wagged its tail. Greenie would smile
and wave before the dog was yanked along on its way. She came to recognize
the neighborhood regulars: the aging black Lab with the heavily
salted muzzle, the twin pugs with their Tammy Faye mascara, the Irish
setter who marked the windows with his wayward tongue. Sometimes
dog faces were the only ones she saw for hours. Even toddlers were visible
only up to the hems of their shorts or jackets. Walter was the one
person who would lean down, knock on a pane, and give her an upside-down
grin, The Bruce right there beside him.

She would know that spring had arrived when green crept into her
rabbit's-eye view, as the small plots of earth around the trees in front of
the building filled with hardy weeds or the floral attempts of residents
longing in vain for gardens of their own. (The dogs were no help there.)

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