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Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel Hardcover – August 20, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. Set in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, this tale of the venerable Johnston family and the early twenty-first-century dissolution of its fortune is filtered through the eyes of each of its malcontent members. There’s matriarch, Jerene, daughter of an abusive father and abused mother, who rules her own roost with a “steel magnolia” resolve. A college-football legend and Civil War scion, her husband, Duke, unemployed lo these 20 years, lives off his residuals and reputation. Their children—morbidly obese real-estate mogul Annie, sorority slut Jerilyn, mousey minister Bo, and closeted gay sales clerk Josh—help fuel the scandals and deplete the funds that force the Johnstons to turn to Jerene’s fabulously wealthy, but scandalously heartless, dipsomaniac brother, Gaston, a writer of southern gothic Civil War bodice rippers. From abortion to alcoholism, bankruptcy to bacchanalia, Barnhardt’s satirical scorching of southern culture comes in second only to Sherman’s fiery march. --Carol Haggas


“Lacerating but affectionate, as exuberant as it is shrewd, "Lookaway, Lookaway" is a Southern novel so sure-footed the only real question for Barnhardt is, "What took you so long?"…By the end I felt like a starving man at a buffet--sated but still hungry. That's not really a knock. "Lookaway, Lookaway" is that rare thing: an excellent long novel that's not long enough.” ―Malcolm Jones, The New York Times Book Review

“It is a work that hides its craft but never its beauty, that is ambitious but never pretentious, that does not sacrifice nuance for power or power for nuance. The book's careful, formal composition is invisible as you read, and it's a beautiful read, sad and savagely funny, one place inexplicably contained in the other.” ―Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books

“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

“Scathing yet touching, this is a delicious saga of Old South meets New, a story of America lurching toward the future.” ―People Magazine

“A delicious romp with a dysfunctional Southern Family.” ―The Chicago Tribune

“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)

“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

“North Carolina native Barnhardt's frothy, satirical latest (after Show World) is Southern gothic at its most decadent and dysfunctional.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Barnhardt bursts forth with a big book that has everyone bustling.” ―Library Journal

“An effervescent novel.” ―BookPage 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

“Barnhardt delivers a knowing, wry and delightfully catty satire...there's more than a little Tom Wolfe here, with a dash of family feuding, Pat Conroy-style...As with the best satire, though, there's a strong vein of affection.” ―Star News Wilmington

“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 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250020832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250020833
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Library GaGa on October 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A lot of people picked up this book and thought "Oh boy, a Fannie Flagg-type Southern fried charmer!" and were repelled by what they read in the opening chapter about self-described `skank' sorority girls and frat boys at venerable Chapel Hill. If you're reading this review, and are looking for a kind, light Southern read, this book is not for you. Fannie's got a new one coming out next month.

If you're looking for satire about society types featuring dead-on characters and situations, look no further. I completely understand the one-star reviews, because no one wants to believe this is the state of the world and these people exist. But it is the state of the world and these people do exist. I know Jerene Johnston. She's my cousin. I know strident know-it-all Annies. I know Bo (I'm married to him and I've been Kate at several rural congregations exactly as described here - except I keep my mouth shut). And two of my daughters went to Chapel Hill and yep, that's accurate too. I know. It's sad. I was at the Mint Museum a month ago. Accurate accurate accurate about the people, the collections, the rooms, the event with much fakery and self-congratulation. I've been to Sons of Confederate Veterans meetings. Accurate!

I'm alright with people not liking the treatment of Charlotte and the characters' nastiness, but don't say this book isn't well written. It is and if you like skewering satire that's only slightly exaggerated, this is for you.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this book because of the recommendation of Lee Smith, one of my favorite fiction writers and one of the funniest novelists I can think of. She is right on the money in her praise of Wilton Barnhardt's LOOKAWAY, LOOKAWAY. Of course everyone recognizes the origin of the title from the now no-longer-correct "Dixie." (I remember our high school glee club in our long ago pre-civil rights ignorance singing that old relic before other old relics, the United Daughters of the Confederacy in East Tennessee, and getting a standing ovation.) The title is significant and provides an interesting twist to this bigger-than-life look at a family with old money, one of Charlotte's finest, the Johnstons, consisting of Duke Johnston and his wife the former Jerene Jarvis, siblings and children and other assorted family members, in-laws, sleep-overs, etc. Jerene, the steely grand matriarch of this crumbling family, makes sure that her children get names beginning with the letter "J" so that they will be able to inherit the "JJJ" engraved silverware.

There is something for everyone here: an alcoholic brother who could write first-rate literary fiction but prefers blockbuster tripe for the money, a daughter who goes wild at Chapel Hill, another daughter who is the buxom one of the family-- described by her grandmother as bigger than a blue whale-- and likes her men blue-collar and manly, a son who is a member of the clergy, a gay son whose best friend is an African American lesbian, his "Designated Black Friend"-- just to name a few assorted characters of a dysfunctional family writ large.

There is something funny on every page of this robust novel. You see glimpses of people you know or wish you didn't know. Mr.
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67 of 75 people found the following review helpful By moose_of_many_waters VINE VOICE on April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm going to guess that Lookaway, Lookaway will find big admirers and detractors in equal numbers when it comes out. It's a very loud, over the top Southern tale full of colorful and emotional characters. In Lookaway, Lookaway, the Johnston family lives off the fumes of its great past. The money is gone, the husband, Duke, is obsessed with the Civil War and his wife, Jerene, is obsessed with making sure that the family name still shines in the halls and balls of Charlotte society. Each family member gets a separate chapter with his/her own extensive back story. Lookaway, Lookaway is stuffed with lots of juicy, lurid details. Everything comes to a head at a Christmas dinner where family secrets are revealed and then some.

There's a lot here that harkens to Tom Wolfe. The colors of this canvas are all very bright. Barnhardt relishes in describing every detail. Every family member is Hobbesian, small hearted and selfish. This book differs from a Wolfe novel in that the writing is better, there is less attention paid to plot (there isn't much of a plot, really; things just happen) and there is a lot of humor. Lookaway, Lookaway at its core is a Southern satire. I'm certain many readers will find pages upon pages of laugh out loud material here. But others, I'm certain, will either be offended or simply uninterested.

I've lived within walking distance to many of the places described in Lookaway, Lookaway. If you're from the South and especially if you're from North Carolina, a good deal of this novel will resonate as long as you allow Barnhardt some artistic license. Lookaway, Lookaway is full of manic energy. It isn't shy about being obvious. If you're laughing through the first forty pages, you'll probably laugh through the entire novel. If you aren't laughing by then, well then this isn't your kind of book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Demarest on August 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The new novel by Wilton Barnhardt, "Lookaway, Lookaway" is a sometimes humorous and occasionally biting look at Southern culture and the fall of a complex, imperfect, yet ultimately loveable family from North Carolina.

Steeped in a struggle to maintain their social standing and a Southern gentility as phony as a Civil War reenactment featuring a cannon whose wheels won't stay on, the Johnstons of Charlotte have more than their share of shocking secrets. The novel is largely a telling of these secrets. The final disclosure -- one that reaches so deep it threatens the foundation of the reputation cultivated by generations of Johnstons -- triggers the tragic, insane, funny, and somehow endearing and hopeful ending. (There is no quit in that girl Jerene!)

Each of the chapters (there are eleven rather long ones) is named after a central character. Each character is fully realized, three-dimensional, engendering in the reader as much love and pity as scorn and disgust. No small trick, Barnhardt made each chapter a mini-profile -- with no shortage of back story -- while simultaneously driving the main plot forward.

Despite the number of characters, I was never confused about who was who or why they were behaving as they were. I take this as an indication that Barnhardt knows these lovable and flawed people better, probably, than his own family. (And now I do, too.)

The novel's structure was fun and fitting. The book unfolds, chapter by chapter, like a layered image revealed one acetate at a time. The faulty, if rational, conclusions made by the reader when the image is just beginning to emerge are later clarified (surprise!) as the image grows more complete.
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