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 re-enactor.
Jerene's brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling 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, 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.
"North Carolina native Barnhardt's frothy, satirical latest is Southern gothic at its most decadent and dysfunctional." - Publishers Weekly
"From abortion to alcoholism, bankruptcy to bacchanalia, Barnhardt's satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman's fiery march." - Booklist
"Fans of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections will appreciate this satisfying, multigenerational tale. A fresh take on the family saga told with both Southern charm and pathos." - Library Journal
"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
"Lookaway, Lookaway is a wild romp through the South, and therefore the history of our nation, written by an absolute ringmaster of fiction. Wilton Barnhardt is back baby, and he's coming at you with everything he's got. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!" - Alice Sebold, New York Times bestselling author of The Lovely Bones
"Move over, Tom Wolfe! There's a new guy in town with the ultimate - no, make that penultimate - take on the New South. Better take a powder, pour a big gin, and put your feet up before you start reading. Writing with brilliance and brio, Wilton Barnhardt has penned a hilarious satire which often has surprising depth and hits way too close to the truth." - Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Oral History and The Last Girls
"This is a raucous novel, bursting with noise and color, immensely and immediately entertaining. And yet it's impossible not to realize how very, very smart it is. Wilton Barnhardt is a masterful storyteller, and Lookaway, Lookaway is high comedy at its brilliant best." - Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints
"Wilton Barnhardt has written the big Southern novel I've been wanting to read all my life. I can't think of a book that better expresses the complexity of exactly where our Southern culture is right now. His insights into his characters - both male and female - are rich and genuinely hilarious, expressed with a dangerous level of humor and pain. Lookaway, Lookaway is entirely remarkable. I finished reading it and started again on page one to see how he did it. (I still don't know.)" - Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and Georgia Bottoms
"Wilton Barnhardt's Lookaway, Lookaway is our best 21st Century update so far of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. This literary romp is a new South vision with a ferocious vengeance, a heady stew of debutantes, Internet dating, Confederate War reenactors, real estate scandals, and Garden & Gun mores. Wicked family secrets are stirred in with antebellum lore and the Obama-era politics of race, gender and sex, all showing us, truly and newly, a Global Dixie." - Randall Kenan, author of The Fire This Time, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, and A Visitation of Spirits
"A fresh and innovative take on the traditional family saga ... the new Barnhardt goes down smooth and delivers with with a kick." - Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Lookaway, Lookaway is an often humorous, sometimes unsettling, ultimately poignant romp through a "New" South still reluctant to let go of its past. Barnhardt's novel earns a place on the bookshelf between J.K. Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons."- Ron Rash, author of Serena
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Rated of 5
Kristine I. (Marion, IL)
Wanted to like it...
This isn't a book that I can recommend. While there were some great moments that had me chuckling, it wasn't enough to make it a good read for me. The humor did not match the general dark tone of the book. I didn't find any of the characters likeable and the end left me feeling flat. I did, however, enjoy the writing and I think the author could have redeemed the book with a more positive spin on the storyline.
Rated of 5
Nancy F. (Carmel, IN)
"Lookaway, Lookaway" was not a good choice based on my preference of content and writer's style. I tried to finish on numerous occasions however felt the plot was forced. As a former sorority member in a "southern house" I could not relate. Sorry.
Rated of 5
Kenan R. (Liberty, MO)
A Great Vacation read
I can't decide if this is a novel disguised as character studies or a series of point of view short stories. Either way I devoured this on the plane.
Multiple members of a large Southern Family share a part of their backgrounds and lives, and somehow these disparate pieces make up a whole novel, that is engaging, heartbreaking, hilarious and caustic. A sharp look at how generations view family obligation and tradition that transcends Southern culture. You may not like everyone in this family, but you will recognize them.
I have not read other books by Wilton Barnhardt, but I will be seeking them out.
Rated of 5
Jennifer F. (Los Gatos, CA)
I was looking forward to reading this book after seeing the review "Move over, Tom Wolfe". Unfortunately, this book has very little in common with Tom Wolfe. I found the characters and their problems in this southern family fiction to be less than compelling. The first scenes in the book were troubling and I had a hard time continuing. Luckily, the plot picked up a bit, but never truly lived up to the hype on the cover reviews.
Rated of 5
Irene M. (Ashland, OR)
This was a very enjoyable book. It followed many years of a families history with each chapter devoted to an individual family member. The novel is centered on the Johnston family of North Carolina. Not only do you get very definitive character studies, but also a great deal of southern history, plus an unexpected twist at the end of the story. I look forward to more books by Wilton Barnhardt.
Rated of 5
Laurie H. (Stuart, FL)
You can choose your friends................
This book was a perfect example of the old adage, "you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family". I don't think I liked any of the characters in the book, but I did enjoy the book as a whole. There were some scenes that made me cringe to read, but yet, I could think of examples of what was happening between the characters as something that had happened in my own family. I was particularly humored by the character who whispered the words and conditions that she found distasteful as if that would change the situation~~we have one of those in our family!! All in all, I liked the book and it is definitely worth the read!!
Wilton Barnhardt is the author of three previous novels: Emma Who Saved My Life, Gospel, and Show World. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he is the director of the Masters in Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.
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