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.
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.
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.
Nancy L. (Denver, NC)
True Southern Drama
After slogging through the first chapter of this book (immature sorority and fraternity foolishness), it began to really get good! As expected in Southern families, each member is a Character! And each chapter gets you interested in that character - then you jump to another just as "unusual". I could identify with most of the family except Josh - whose overly descriptive chapter could have been omitted as far as I'm concerned! Love both the heads of the Johnston family - strong figures in their own identities. As I got into the book, I found I couldn't put it down - and did very little for two days but read - surprises throughout! I'm determined to read this author's other books, but I doubt they could be as absorbing as this one. Loved it!
Dorothy M. (Maynard, MA)
Lookaway, Lookaway - a Dixie Land you might not expect
Wilton Barnhardt has written a book that is both hilariously funny and exceptionally intelligent. Jerene Jarvis Johnston is the quintessential Southern bell - charm on the outside and steel to the core. The story of her family - her husband who was supposed to be an important politician, her brother who was once a promising literary writer now churning out potboilers on the Civil War and their four children whom she drags unwillingly through her image of southern aristocracy - is both a scathing send up of modern life and a frantic attempt to hold on to a past that has disappeared and perhaps never existed. As the scandals pile on and the secrets of the past emerge, her determination to hold the path becomes rather courageous. A wonderful read - especially for those, like me, who are particularly fond of southern storytellers.
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.