Lookaway, Lookaway: Book summary and reviews of Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

Lookaway, Lookaway

by Wilton Barnhardt

Lookaway, Lookaway
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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 TimeLet 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

The information about Lookaway, Lookaway shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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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)

Loved it!!!!
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.

Beth (USA)

Lookaway, Lookaway
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)

Southern lament
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.

...19 more reader reviews

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More Information

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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