Customer Reviews for

Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

The new novel by Wilton Barnhardt, "Lookaway, Lookaway"

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 ...
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. A minor example: College football star Duke Johnston is publicly disappointed when an injury prevents his participation in Vietnam. Later, in the chapter devoted to Duke, we discover he was secretly relieved.

Barnhardt obviously researched the Civil War for this book, and sprinkled into it just enough weird tidbits to keep it interesting. (I actually could have used a bit more of the surprising history, despite its relative irrelevance to the story and my having only a passing interest in the war.)

Finally, this book is more than just a window into the foibles and shortcomings of Southern culture.

Not unlike how "Emma Who Saved My Life" showed us it's OK to drop a dream if the dream turns out to be not as dreamy as you thought it would be, the hopeful message of "Lookaway, Lookaway" is that it's OK to fail. Everyone fails. Even those who succeed fail. Likewise, even those who fail succeed. Our dear Duke, for example, who has squandered the family fortune, feels like a failure until he realizes how much his family loves him despite his faults. (And we love him for realizing it.)

Coming away from the book, I was left with the feeling that Barnhardt, who is obviously an aficionado of fine food and wine, must also be an awful gossip.

I love gossips.

NOTE: I received a free copy of the novel from the editor.

posted by LynnDemarest on August 27, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

I wouldn't read past page 40! Sorry I didn't read a sample, or I

I wouldn't read past page 40! Sorry I didn't read a sample, or I would never have ordered this. It is disgusting. I'm not a prude , but this book is trash. I don't know who wrote the promotional blurb for this, but they obviously didn't read very intently. Wish I could ...
I wouldn't read past page 40! Sorry I didn't read a sample, or I would never have ordered this. It is disgusting. I'm not a prude , but this book is trash. I don't know who wrote the promotional blurb for this, but they obviously didn't read very intently. Wish I could get my money back from Barnes and Noble. This doesn't even deserve one star.

posted by Beachbabe1 on August 26, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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