Synopses & Reviews
Slate's and Kirkus Review's Best Books of 2013 and
The New York Times, National Public Radio, and Indie Bound bestseller:
"Lookaway, Lookaway is a wild romp through the South, and therefore the history of our nation, written by an absolute ringmaster of fiction." —Alice Sebold,
New York Times bestselling author of
The Lovely Bones
Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina's high society, where old Southern money — and older Southern secrets — meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era 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 literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving 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 — but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a 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 (after Show World) is Southern gothic at its most decadent and dysfunctional. With each chapter dedicated to a different character one more self-indulgent and flawed than the last the sprawling saga of an esteemed clan's fall from grace and fortune spools out in fits and starts. Some members are more emotionally complex (and therefore more entertaining to read about) than others. The sections devoted to the four flailing Johnston kids including spoiled college co-ed Jerilyn's drivel about her sorority-pledging shenanigans (think wanton lewd behavior including a tired sex-with-a-sheep joke) delve into too much repetitive, perhaps excessive, detail. But the adults pick up the slack, chiefly Gaston a bestselling author of Civil Warthemed potboilers, who has a potty mouth, gobs of cash, and a weakness for hard liquor and prostitutes, and his sister, Jerene, the unflappable matriarch and 'distillation of rich-white-lady force who could eat her social inferiors for hors d'oeuvres.' (Her hilarious one-liners are standouts.) As the scandals pile up, including a raucous Christmas dinner showdown, and a hoot of a finale that's pure shock and awe, this mess of a family has nowhere left to go but up well, not if they can help it. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A dishier array of secrets animates Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt's big, enveloping novel about a status-conscious North Carolina family.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Dixieland was never so dishy nor dysfunctional as in Barnhardt's ribald send-up of the conflagration that ensues when Old South tradition confronts New South tackiness….Barnhardt's satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman's fiery march.” Booklist Review
"Barnhardt's fourth novel is a revelation: witty, savage and bighearted all at once, it is the Southern novel for the 21st century." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"One helluva barn burner." Elle magazine
"Sprawling, generous, delightful...I didn't want it to end. Lookaway is both dishy and literary, but like all good novels, there's a nourishing quality as well." The Charlotte Observer
“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
About the Author
Wilton Barnhardt is the author of the author of three other novels: Gospel, Show World, and Emma Who Saved My Life. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he teaches fiction in the master of fine arts in creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.