At one point or another, we have all retraced our decisions to figure out what led to a certain moment. Often, this happens after an unexpected surprise losing our way in a strange city and stumbling into a childhood friend, reluctantly attending a wedding only to fall in love with the best man. Afterward, we celebrate these turning points where fate seems to have gently ushered us onto a better path. But what about the moments where something in our world shifts slightly, but too subtly for us to notice? It is these moments that intrigue Julia Glass in her second novel, The Whole World Over.
For Manhattan pastry chef Greenie Duquette, one such moment hinges on her out-of-this-world coconut cake. When a slice of that cake finds its way to the plate of the aggressively charismatic governor of New Mexico, he immediately offers Greenie a job as his personal chef. Faced with a thriving business but a stagnating marriage, Greenie's initial hesitation quickly transforms from why to why not? and she packs her bags and her four-year-old son, George, to move to Santa Fe. This decision leads to the unraveling of the existing structure that had characterized Greenie's life in New York. Her departure doesn't sit well with her husband, Alan, who is deeply resentful of his wife's decision less because of their current distance than his fear that the separation will become permanent. Her city-bred son becomes enamored by all things cowboy-related, with some ultimately dicey consequences. And Greenie is forced to contemplate a reconfiguration of her present and future, as well as her past. From here, an entire world opens up as Glass introduces a fascinating cast of characters (including Fenno McLeod from her National Book Award-winning debut, Three Junes) whose lives interconnect in surprising ways. But in the end, the story is about Alan and Greenie and the decisions that drive them apart and bind them together. Meredith McGuire writes from San Francisco.