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Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel

3.18  ·  Rating Details ·  2,837 Ratings  ·  586 Reviews
Steely and formidable, Jerene Jarvis Johnston sits near the apex of society in contemporary Charlotte, North Carolina, where old Southern money and older family skeletons meet the new wealth of bankers, land speculators, and social climbers. Jerene and her Civil War reenactor husband, Duke, have four adult children—sexually reckless real estate broker Annie; earnest minist ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 24th 2014 by Picador (first published May 7th 2013)
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Mitch Davidson In the Audible version, Barnhardt states that he is aware of how much UNC alumnae will dislike what he wrote. But, he stands by his writing as factual…moreIn the Audible version, Barnhardt states that he is aware of how much UNC alumnae will dislike what he wrote. But, he stands by his writing as factual due to reading interviews and research. My daughter attended UNC as a sorority member and we have different memories of this fine institution. Yet, much of what he wrote could have been assigned to many colleges in the 80s, 90s, 00s, and today including where Barnhardt teaches- NC State. (less)
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Aug 04, 2013 Lawyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: St. Martin's Press for Review
Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel: Wilton Barnhardt's New Southern Family

 photo Barnhardt_zpsf9f349a7.jpg
Wilton Barnhardt

I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.--Daniel Decatur Emmett, 1859

Two Ladies of the South discuss the new book in Town

Two women, immaculately dressed, sit in white rockers on a broad porch. Ceiling fans turn above them. Ice tinkles in glasses of sweet tea. They sip daintily. The light reveals the swirl of sugar, a cool drink more akin t
Susan in NC
May 11, 2013 Susan in NC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am so glad I took a chance on this book and requested it from the Amazon Vine program; at worst, I figured, it might be a Pat Conroyesque scandal-and-angst fest told with a dash of dark humor, and at best it might be a profile in family dysfunction told with raw, biting humor a la David Sedaris. Worth a try, right? Yes!

I'll admit, the first chapter had me a bit unsure; told from the point of view of society bride wannabe Jerilyn Johnston, youngest of the Johnston family and in the midst of sor
Book Concierge
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 mysterious
Oct 16, 2013 Amber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't need to look on the dust jacket to know the author is a professor in North Carolina. It was evident in the first 20 pages.
Like sitting in a lecture hall listen to a professor drone on, loving the sound of his own voice, this book was as torturous to get through as my 8:30 AM American History class. I really wanted to like this book but had to force my through it. The author tends to rambles on about various topic such as the Civil War, Religion, and the hierarchy of universities in NC f
Aug 10, 2013 Franc rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I only gave it 1 star, but I only read the first 2 chapters. Then I gave up on it.
Why I wanted to like it - I like North Carolina, I generally like southern stories.

Why I couldn't get past chapter 2:
- chapter 1 had more nasty details of White fraternity pledging then ever needed to know and hope will evaporate from my memory, soon. The daughter was a bit spoiled and naive, but in an irritating way. This could work b/c the reader doesn't have to like the character to be invested in them, but I co
Oct 08, 2013 Ange rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The best part of this book was the title. I should have followed it's advice. I'm not sure where the humor was because I do not think there was one time that I laughed, much less, laughed out loud.

The characters were unlikeable, the story was tedious, not to mention rambling and in spots, fall asleep, boring.

I did like the cover...and I do buy a book by the cover which is how I was sucked into this word-ie waste of money.

Not my glass of sweet tea at all!!
Aug 26, 2013 Donna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Cliché and stereotyping abound in this tasteless and boring novel. It sounded so appealing, but I knew by the end of the first chapter that this was not going to be a book I even wanted to finish. Since it was a book club selection I waded through it all, and it did in fact improve, but not enough!
Mar 26, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much wanted to love this book, but in the end I can only say that I liked it a lot.

Barnhardt's earlier works were critical in my reading life. Emma Who Saved My Life came to me at exactly the right time, and helped me understand who I was in my early twenties. Gospel was like reading The DaVinci Code, before The DaVinci Code was written, and if The DaVinci Code had wit, humanity, and a soul. Show World didn't work for me, but I'll give Barnhardt a Mulligan on that.

It's a cliche, but I go
Jan 03, 2014 Holly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Wilton Barnhardt's appeal to the very basest of human nature is noted. His writing comes off with an air of self-importance, but reading his book makes me believe he is just vulgar -- and a sorry excuse for a writer.
The fact that he is a professor who influences college students makes me cringe.
Lookaway, Lookaway is one novel which has had me mulling over what to write about it for a couple of days. I read previous reviews which condemned it as silly froth, due to its "debutante" beginning and had abandoned it and those who felt it was just another "Southern" genre book. It is neither.

For me, this is the story of the Johnston/Jarvis family, the public profile it tries to maintain, the conflicted emotions over beloved family traditions constraining its members in present time and the f
Emily Gatlin
Feb 13, 2013 Emily Gatlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely outrageous characters... completely believable if you have spent time in the South. Barnhardt perfectly nails the generations of Southern socialites. The "Christmas dinner" scene is one of my all-time favorites, and Gaston Jarvis is a character for the literary record books. The story moves along as each character gets their own POV chapter. Really fun, very funny, but also very serious. I promise, you'll know these people.
Apr 29, 2013 Robyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant satire, really excellent characterization. Each chapter was from a different character, and it didn't feel like a schtick, it felt like a nuanced and multi-faceted presentation of a many-limbed and complicated family, with each chapter offering a new viewpoint or tidbit of information. Extremely funny, but at the same time a close look at the undercurrents of sexuality, race, and violence in our society. Hard to put down!
RoseMary Achey
Set in my hometown of Charlotte was the reason I picked up this novel. Laugh out loud funny as the author takes some facts and stretches them. It is always good to see yourself or your friends through the lens of another perspective.
Maine Colonial
This satire of the modern-day South is consciously modeled after a Victorian novel. As one of the character observes about a book he plans to write: it would be like a Sir Walter Scott or Anthony Trollope, as a great family fights to hold its fortune for a final generation before the collapse and ruin.

Like a Victorian novel, this is a closely observed examination of a small group of people that illustrates the values of their time and place. The cast of characters:

Joseph Beauregard "Duke" Johnst
Jun 19, 2013 Joyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel
by Wilton Barnhardt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.75

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Dazzling Satire, April 13, 2013

This review is from: Lookaway, Lookaway: A Novel (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
Can you visualize the monogram JJJ in serif script adorned on the best linen and tea service? Jerene Jarvis Johnston is more than a symbol of how old Southern money disintegrates. She is the daughter of Jeannette J
Aug 30, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt and his story of the high society Johnston family of Charlotte, NC. Embracing cliche, here is my review:

The Good: There are several scenes that are so funny that they rival they the hilarity of Florence King's writing. The absolute highlight is a Christmas that is your worst family nightmare brought to life.

The Bad: Each chapter is the story of one of the characters. This throws off the timeline, but the reader catches on quickl
Jerene Jarvis Johnston. Now here's a woman who could give Scarlett O'Hara a run for the money. She's the steel spine of this novel, which revolves around her family and is structured so that each section is told from the point of view of a different character.

This is a fabulous novel, with many wonderful scenes (including the ultimate family Christmas dinner from hell). It operated for me on many levels. It was fantastically entertaining with several surprising plot twists and the kind of famil
Jul 24, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a difficult review for me to write. I won this book from Goodreads- the first book I have won. So, in the spirit of the give away, I am writing a review, but I do not have anything positive to say. The first chapter is disgusting, disturbing, perverted, and very inappropriate. I forced myself to finish the first chapter and decided to give the second chapter a chance. Well, I couldn't even finish the second chapter before giving the book up. So, my review may not be fair to the book and ...more
NancyL Luckey
May 31, 2013 NancyL Luckey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After slogging through the first chapter of this book (immature sorority and fraternity foolishness), it began to really get good! As expected in Southern families, each member is a Character! And each chapter gets you interested in that character - then you jump to another just as "unusual". I could identify with most of the family except Josh - whose overly descriptive chapter could have been omitted as far as I'm concerned! Love both the heads of the Johnston family - strong figures in their ...more
Marjorie Hudson
Oct 28, 2013 Marjorie Hudson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ten characters each get a chapter to uncover the inner workings of the contemporary upper crust Southern mind, from a saucy Creole lesbian college student to a bitter-about-success drunken Southern novelist, all connected by the Johnston family, denizens of high society in North Carolina's city of banks: Charlotte. It took me a while to dig into this book, as Barnhardt starts off with a young deb so silly that she joins a skanky sorority because she believes there will be more access to marriage ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest disappointments in my life is that I can never - and will never - know EXACTLY what is going on in a person's head: I cannot know their innermost thoughts, the motivation behind their actions, or what they really do when they are alone. Fortunately for someone as "naturally inquisitive" as me, there are stories that show me exactly that; "Lookaway, Lookaway" is such a book! It chronicles different members of an old Southern family, whether they be members by marriage, blood, ...more
Oct 06, 2013 Keith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013
Lookaway, lookaway.

I came to this book already predisposed to like it. A good review in the NYT, a North Carolina setting (where I live), a promised satirical look at the NC upper crust, plus it's written by someone teaching where I used to work. How could it be bad? The novel focuses on several generations of the families of Duke and Jerene Johnston, their four children, Annie, Bo, Joshua and Jerlyn. Jerene's brother and sister, Gaston and Dillard also play significant parts in the story, as we
Jun 26, 2013 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from Goodreads as an ARC, so there were a few issues that I don't think will be part of the final printing. We'll ignore those. I'm fairly torn on this book, I want to say I liked it, but I had enough issues with it that I didn't.

First, the book is broken up into three "book" sections, then those are subdivided between the various characters in the book. The first character is the youngest Johnston daughter, was not a huge fan of her or any of her "friends" in that section,
Jul 14, 2013 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LookAway, LookAway
Wilton Barnhardt

My " in a nutshell" summary...

Meet the Johnstons of Charlotte, North Carolina in all of their dysfunctional glory!

My thoughts after reading this book...

Hmmm...I don't think I have ever read a book with as much yummy "Southern" dysfunction as this book. There is a mom/ matriarch...Jerene...who rules. There is a dad...Duke...who is obsessed with Civil War history. There is a brother...Jerene's brother Gaston...who is a successful author. Then there are Jerene's
The antics of fraternity brothers in the early part of this book was so disgusting it made me sorry I had requested this book for review. Fortunately, once I got past that part, it didn't return. Unfortunately, my opinion went from “disgusting” to “boring.”

The venerable Southern family was not charming, funny, or entertaining, but did live up to some solid stereotypes. I didn't care about any of the characters or their (few) redeeming qualities or their (numerous) foibles. They were not only unk
Rachel Wallace
Very entertaining story about a spoiled southern society family and all their craziness.

The main problem I had was with the character development. All these people were 'acting out' in horrible, self destructive ways but even as I came to the end of the book I still never fully understood their motivation for these actions. Why did Duke never go get a real job after his political career fizzled? Why did Jerilyn choose to run with a wild crowd in college? What really happen with her husband in t
Oct 18, 2013 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this novel--a good Southern yarn about a deeply flawed extended family? Yes please. Barnhardt is a gifted, intelligent writer and he is clearly knowledgeable about a variety of topics, history & religion being two of his favorites to expound upon. But despite his stylistic gifts as a writer, the story just doesn't flow. Maybe it's because each character gets his or her own chapter, and Barnhardt is so meticulous about telling each family member's story that the novel gets bo ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Alena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. There's so much to like about th book -- southern gentility, family drama, secrets, a smattering of historic fact. Alternating perspectives. But it was all just a little too much. The history lessons became preachy, even with my Civil War fascination. And the family drama began to feel forced to me in the last third of the book. Must every single character have a deep dark secret?

Still, I could help but fall under the spell of the Jarvis clan. I liked the author's choice to use each c
Jan 12, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this is a work of fiction, it certainly must be based on some pretentious, dysfunctional family from Charlotte NC. Yes, the entire book takes place in an around Charlotte, which made for a fun read due to all of the references of local landmarks.

Each character has it's own chapter, so there is quite a bit of character development, and a family tree would have been helpful. Humorous at times, but some of the Civil War history was too detailed for me.

All in all a good read, particularly
May 13, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a Charlottean who knows well the world Wilton Barnhardt seeks to capture I was distracted by factual inaccuracies (you can't park on Providence Rd, for example) and by tonal missteps (old families don't name girls Jerene or Jerilyn, a grand dame would never wear a Christmas sweater, the "best" neighborhood is Eastover, not Myers Park).

More egregious, however, are the disjointed stories of 11 different, but not quite distinct, third person omniscient narrators.

There are some entertaining bit
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 May 24, 2017 09:49AM  
North Carolina Go...: L is for Lookaway, Lookaway 1 5 Jun 09, 2014 04:05PM  
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Wilton Barnhardt (born 1960) is a former reporter for Sports Illustrated and is the author of Emma Who Saved My Life (1989), Gospel (1993), Show World (1999), and the New York Times bestseller Lookaway, Lookaway (2013). Barnhardt took his B.A. at Michigan State University, and was a graduate student at Brasenose College, University of Oxford, where he read for an M.Phil. in English.

He currently t
More about Wilton Barnhardt...

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“Southerners. Such literate, civilized folk, such charm and cleverness and passion for living, such genuine interest in people, all people, high and low, white and black, and yet how often it had come to, came to, was still coming to vicious incomprehension, usually over race but other things too - religion, class, money. How often the lowest elements had burst out of the shadows and hollers, guns and torches blazing, galloping past the educated and tolerant as nightriders, how often the despicable had run riot over the better Christian ideals... how often cities had burned, people had been strung up in trees, atrocities had been permitted to occur and then, in the seeking of justice for those outrages, how slippery justice had proven, how delayed its triumph. Oh you expect such easily obtained violence in the Balkans or among Asian or African tribal peoples centuries-deep in blood feuds, but how was there such brutality and wickedness in this place of church and good intention, a place of immense friendliness and charity and fondness for the rituals of family and socializing, amid the nation's best cooking and best music... how could one place contain the other place?” 6 likes
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