Excerpt from The Whole World Over by Julia Glass, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Whole World Over

A Novel

by Julia Glass

The Whole World Over
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 528 pages
    Jun 2007, 576 pages

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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.

Excerpted from The Whole World Over by Julia Glass Copyright © 2006 by Julia Glass. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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