Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband, Duke, are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, a world where old Southern money and the secrets behind it meet the new wealth of bankers, real estate speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War reenactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute best-selling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of masterpiece. And their sister Dillard’s unfortunate life decisions and losses have rendered her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children - smart but reckless Annie, good-boy minister Bo, might-be-gay-but-that’s-okay Joshua, and damaged and dangerous Jerilyn - flounder in their adult lives, Jerene must take action to preserve the family's legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what's left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has - is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a full-bore, headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.
Includes a bonus interview between Wilton Barnhardt and George Witte, editor in chief of St. Martin's Press.
©2013 Wilton Barnhardt (P)2013 Macmillan Audio
"Move over, Tom Wolfe! Writing with brilliance and brio, Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth." (Lee Smith)
This book is so big and luscious...wonderful characters, including the South itself. Fabulous narration...not only does Scott Shepherd embody the character's voices perfectly, his little humorous inflections while reading descriptive passages drench them with color. You find yourself nodding in agreement...
Sad when it ended
I really enjoyed Lookaway, Lookaway. I should put in the caveat that I am from NC, so it was fun hearing about so many places familiar to me. That aside, Barnhardt does a great job with character development and tells the story through an interesting method. For the first few hours, I thought it was going to be all sorority and debutante fluff, but then the novel took a sharp left turn and never looked back. The matriach, Jerene Jarvis Johnson, is incredibly well drawn. Hats off to Barnhardt for his clever story line that always kept me surprised.
I really liked this book. It started oddly with a college scenario that was all about 19 year olds; then the uncle, sister, mother, father, brothers, grandmother & aunt of the co-ed were introduced. The story layered and layered as each of the characters' lives unfolded and none of them were as they seemed or wanted to be seen.
This author has great insight into people. I am from a generation which finds some of the content objectionable. Having said that, the contribution of the characters to the overall story was important and the writing was such that it wasn't necessary to delve deeply into all of the details of each character to follow the impact of each on the story. The narration was outstanding. I will certainly look for additional offerings by both the author and the narrator.
Single white female. MFA candidate in poetry at NC State University. Instructor of freshman composition. Mother of two beautiful cats.
Wilton Barnhardt has produced something rare and beautiful with "Lookaway, Lookaway." Hilarious at times, tragic at others (and sometimes both at once), it is a compelling, compassionate portrait of a certain kind of family, and a certain kind of culture, and the mammoth pile of secrets needed to keep them both from crumbling. Buy it, already!
Oh, and the narration is great too :)
I liked this book, but I didn't really get interested until I had listened for a few hours. If you like books that somewhat expose the "crazies" that exist in the South, you'd like it. Recommend.
Loved the way this book tells the story through a different character's eyes every couple of chapters. By the end of the book, you will know this family well enough to get all the inside jokes. It takes a while to get started (I didn't like the first few chapters) but once you become familiar with the family, it is a funny story.
This is not going to be a helpful review because honestly, I'm still not sure how I feel about this story. Some parts were boring, some parts were interesting. I liked some of the characters, hated others. The ending was not great, but the reader was good and I loved the book cover...
Probably would not recommend unless you are interested in the history of the South.
I consider myself pretty thick-skinned when it comes to my reading choices, and I have liked Barnhardt's books in the past, but I bailed on this book after a couple of hours. It was just way too crass and vulgar for me. Maybe it got better after the fraternity and sorority horror stories at UNC but I didn't get that far.
Evidently I am familiar with a different South. While Kentucky is not technically south in the minds of some, we do have many southern traditions. I am so glad that the characters in this book don’t resemble any of the southerners I know. I can find little redeeming value in any of these characters. I had to finish this book because it is a book club selection. Otherwise, I would not have gotten past the UNC segment. The publisher’s review said, “hilarious narrative of a family coming apart.” I find nothing remotely funny about this totally dysfunctional family. The narrator was very good.
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