Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton BarnhardtLookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Published by Macmillan on 8/20/2013
Source: Publisher
Pages: 384
Buy from IndieBound

Duke and Jerene Johnston are pillars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, holding up the façade of their family’s rich Confederate heritage while attempting to bury secrets both past and present. Rather than helping the Johnston’s hold their spot on the social ladder, Duke and Jerene’s four children seem bound to knock the family down as their lives grow increasingly scandalous. Even Jerene’s siblings have a difficult time conforming to the high Southern standards her family was raised to follow. Though she understands that society is changing around her, Jerene is determined to hold on to her family’s legacy – at any cost.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve only lived below the Mason-Dixon for five years, so I’m still adjusting to all the intricacies of Southern culture (like when I had to give my students a flier for cotillion, though I had no clue what it was?), but there is no denying the truth behind the characters in Lookaway, Lookaway. While they are no doubt extreme and satirized, it’s hard not to find a familiar face in the Johnston clan, regardless of your background. Among them a drunk, slurring brother who penned a series of bestselling Civil War novels, leaving him piles of cash. A daughter who gives up her preppy outfits and perfect GPA to join the wildest sorority in college, only to find herself being taken advantage of, while her sister fights to swim against everything the Johnston family stands for. But Lookaway, Lookaway‘s most unforgettable character is the family matriarch, Jerene Jarvis Johnston. The polarity between Jerene’s strict Southern manners and brutally uncompromising tactics when protecting those around her is both shocking and endlessly entertaining.

“It’s as if, thought Annie, some wicked masculine committee in charge of Life had known the women would worry their pretty little heads over all this rigmarole and thereby leave the running of the big important world to the men, who would look upon all the flounces and frills, tears and hysteria, with a knowing wink, a nudge in the side, Told you that’d keep ’em occupied.” 

Each member of the family is given a point of view chapter, which allows the plotlines to be told from different perspectives – a perfect device when dealing with family secrets. Over the course of several years we are welcomed into the Johnston family, through tales both humorous and heartbreaking, and watch as it slowly falls apart. After nearly fifteen years, Wilton Barnhardt has returned with an insightful, irresistibly fun novel that is already on my favorites list. 


  • I have never even heard of this book, but it looks like something I should read. Throw another one onto the TBR pile.

  • I want, I want, I want! Off to add it to my wish list ;)

  • Words for Worms

    Ooooooh this sounds delicious!

  • Ti Reed

    I just finished a book about an upper crust family and it was hard to look away, so this title fits!

  • Can’t wait to read this. So happy Wilton Barnhardt is back!

    • I’m excited to see what you think, since you’ve read his others. I just picked up a used copy of Gospel and I”m looking forward to squeezing that monster in sometime.

  • COVER!!! Why do I think I’ve become a bit of a cover whore lately? I love this. I get that Mad Men vibe, which I dig.

  • Kerry M

    Yes yes and yes! I read this last month and loved it; so intricate and so very Southern. I wasn’t familiar with Barnhardt before but will definitely be looking for more of his books after this one.

    • He definitely won me over, too! I’ve already bought one of his older books and I’m keeping my eye out for more.

  • This just came in at our library and went right out on hold to somebody, so I didn’t get a chance to really look at it, although the cover definitely caught my eye. It sounds like a good one!

  • The Book Wheel

    I lived in North Carolina for almost 5 years (my husband grew up in Charlotte), so I know ALL about the southern culture now. I’m torn on whether to read this one or not because while it sounds good I moved for a reason!

    • I totally know what you mean :) It actually has enough characters that go against the Southern stereotype and just the right amount of satire that it ends up being hilariously funny while still being meaningful. I think you’d appreciate it since you’ve moved.

  • Sam_TinyLibrary

    We spent a month in the South for our honeymoon and there was massive culture shock for as us Brits, much more than we were expecting! I loved it though, and am keen to read more books set there, so this one’s gone on my list.

  • You already know that I loved this book as much as you did but I think it’s funny that the same points hit both of us. Thank you so much for sending me your copy!

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