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Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel by Wilton…
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Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Wilton Barnhardt

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2141554,496 (3.49)11
Member:Stomplib
Title:Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel
Authors:Wilton Barnhardt
Info:St. Martin's Press (2013), Edition: 0, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:New, Adults, Maine Readers Choice
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Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt (Author)

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A very well narrated audio book and an interesting view of contemporary N. Carolina told from the perspective of a high society white family. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
My book club picked this book for October 2016. I confess that I didn't read all of it; partly because the book was due back at the library but mostly because I just couldn't care about this family.

In the realm of dysfunctional families the Jarvises and Johnstons have to be pretty high on the scale of dysfunction. The four children of Jerrene and Duke Johnston all have problems and the parents don't do much better. Jerrene's siblings include an alcoholic writer of pulp historical fiction and a hypochondriac. Reading the account of their lives is like watching a multi-car pileup take place right in front of you. At some point you just can't take in any more. The only person that I related to at all was Annie, the obese older daughter who is on her third marriage. She at least sees the hypocrisy and tries to do something about it. ( )
  gypsysmom | Oct 18, 2016 |
I have an ARC; I'm pretty much beside myself with antici- (say it) -pation.

***

It may not be The, but it is certainly A Great American Novel. Barnhardt has a marvelous way of capturing the absurdities of an era, as he showed in [b:Emma Who Saved My Life: A Novel|92484|Emma Who Saved My Life A Novel|Wilton Barnhardt|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1367749777s/92484.jpg|89190]. More importantly, where the wise author sees the folly of his characters, he doesn't mock them for their earnest embrace of the mores of their times. Like Dickens and Austen, he is sympathetic to the situations people find themselves in, to the hazards they create for themselves.

Background: the novel is set primarily in Charlotte, NC during the first decade of the 21st century. Conversations and flashbacks take us back in the lives of the Jarvis-Johnston family as far as the Civil War. For these people the past isn't over. There's Gaston making a fortune writing historical novels, and his sister Jerene's work maintaining the family art collection at the museum, and her husband Duke's devotion to re-enacting with maximum authenticity, and preserving a battle site. The past is ongoing, too, in the efforts of the next generation, where Annie finds a way to help previously discriminated-against families purchase their first home in integrated neighborhoods, and Bo and his wife Kate struggle to do God's work in a contentious suburban church, and Joshua tries to keep his sexual escapades on the down-low using his best friend Dorrie as a beard.

All of these characters, and many more, are trying to find some way to accommodate a weight of history that both protects them and holds them back. They are all struggling against the expectations of Society (such as it is down here) and against sexism and racism and classism, even as they enjoy some privileges from the system. Book One introduces the family and runs through their gamut of first-world problems, and I was afraid, I admit it, that maybe Barnhardt was going to give in to Tom Wolfe-like railing against everyone and everything.

Then there's Book Two, which lifts the book above mere witty sniping, into something sympathetic, and understanding, and revealing. There is no bogus Hollywood ending, but the good receive some reward, and the wicked receive some punishment, and the result is the best one could hope for, given the characters and modern history.

Barnhardt is a writer with scope and the best sort of human charity. His novels are infrequent, but the rewards are earned.

***

Publisher's ARC provided for review ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 16, 2016 |
Barnhardt is a North Carolina writer and I feel like this book couldn't be written by anyone that wasn't. It's a family saga of a Southern well-to-do Charlotte family with all their familial secrets and dysfunction typical of Southern families that sweep things under the rug.

I thought this book was so entertaining, funny, realistic, believable, honest, and overall a rather accurate portrayal of these types of families and characters in the South. As I was saying before, it's not just a Southern novel, it's a North Carolina novel with Duke, UNC, and NC State rivalry and the like. I loved it. My favorite character was the head of the family, Jerene. I loved her straightforward style of speaking to her children and putting people in their place. I thought she was hilarious even if I didn't always agree with what she did.

Definitely recommended. ( )
  Tara1Reads | Oct 15, 2016 |
1.5 stars

From the dust jacket: 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 reenactor.

My Comments
The novel includes Jerene’s mother and two siblings, as well as Jerene and Duke’s four children and their spouses or partners. It is divided into three distinct books: Scandal Averted (2003), Scandal Regained (2007-2008) and Scandal Redux (2012), and each of the eleven chapters is narrated by a different character.

The opening chapter focuses on the youngest Johnston child, Jerilyn, beginning her freshman year at college and rushing the “wild” sorority. I am not a prude and have no problem reading graphic material, but this was just vulgar – and unnecessary. We never get back to Jerilyn’s story, though she makes a significant contribution to later scandal in book two. Chapter two is narrated by Jerene’s brother Gaston – a wildly successful author of a series of historical novels set in the Civil War era South. Despite his success he is unhappy and seeks solace in drinking, because he has never been able to write the great American novel he’s wanted to write since his college days.

The novel continues just meandering among the characters – all of them behaving badly, while Jerene struggles to maintain appearances. But none of their stories was remotely interesting to me. I was bored and had to force myself to keep going. When I first heard about this book I was immediately interested and wanted to read it. There’s a good idea for a novel in this scenario: A once-great family slowly and inexorably declining – even disintegrating – but only on the inside, leaving an outside veneer that continues to give the impression of greatness. But I’m afraid that describes the novel as well. It has a great veneer, but it crumbles once you get inside it.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
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Presiding over her family and its legacy of masterpiece Civil War art, North Carolina society maven Jerene Jarvis Johnston takes increasingly haphazard steps to protect her grown children from their own heedlessness.

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