Marybeth T. (Bellingham, WA)
I do love a book about the south and this is a great one. I have never read a book by Wilton Barnhardt before. I will be sure to read more of his work. This was a sad, funny and hard to put down book. Not all the characters were likable, but they were a pleasure to read about. This will be certain to be a great summer read.
I loved this book! Acerbic witty prose, characters you love, and some you love to hate, and an engrossing storyline that kept me reading into the night.
Only cautionary note, this one might not be for those who are put off by strong language and graphic sexual references.
A short way into the read I began to suspect the author was invested more in venting his own frustrations with the hypocrisy in politics, religion, and social constructs than telling a story and was growing impatient with his "rant'. However, I came to respect his knowledge of historical facts that I had been ignorant of and his adeptness at weaving them into what actually was a good story. His vivid characters so engaged me that they could rile me, enlighten me, shock me, make me laugh out loud, sometimes all at the same time. Ultimately I found the book to be provocative and entertaining. I intend to explore more of this author's writing.
Sue H. (Wooster, OH)
A slow read
I usually passionately enjoy family sagas with the scope of this one, especially those set in the South, but this one was disappointing. Had I not committed to reviewing this for BookBrowse, I would have abandoned it. The pace was very slow, but worse was the lack of connection I felt for the characters. I hoped to care what happened from one chapter to the next, but, sadly this did not happen. I honor the incredible research exhibited by the author as well as his use of language, but these are not enough for me to recommend this book.
Lorraine R. (Southampton, NY)
Was there ever a more dysfunctional family? Each character seemed less able to cope with what life gave them and what they made of their lives; dark family secrets aside. Wilton Barnhardt writes a fine novel of the South, with all the pathos of a Greek tragedy. Unfortunately it was painful to read at times, lacking humor and just hoping that someone in this family would find peace with themselves. It was well-written, the language was fluid and descriptive, but somehow lacked the depth of Pat Conroy's descriptions of Southern families. I would recommend this novel, a good book club read along with other novels of the South.
Loretta F. (Fountain Inn, SC)
A Southern Melodrama
When I read the first chapter of "Lookaway, Lookaway," I thought I was reading another stereotypical southern novel: rich Daddy's good girl (Jerilyn) goes to college and then goes wild. The fraternity pranks reminded me of the movie "Animal House," but were not nearly as funny. I thought I was in for a disappointing read, until the next chapter when Gaston "speaks." The book was redeemed by his sarcasm and caustic wit. From that point forward, each character "speaks" and they all prove more interesting than Jerilyn. Jerene (Mama) is a typical upper class southern woman, very concerned with her image in the community, but she has some unique qualities and some secrets too.
The author's description of the family's Christmas dinner was such a disaster that it begs belief. How can one family have so much drama! Because I found the excessive amount of drama to be depressing, I really did not enjoy reading this book. However, I gave it four stars because it was well-written.
Sylvia G. (Scottsdale, AZ)
you might want to look away
I wanted to like this book. At times I did. But ultimately, I felt it wasn't worth the time and effort. I love satire and sometimes Barnhardt delivered, but mostly the satire was on the mean side and very heavy-handed. There was more gay sex talk than there needed to be and Civil War history that would be interesting only to a true aficionado. Not my favorite. I debated over two or three stars...decided to be kind.