Overview from Barnes and Noble:
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 minister Bo; gay-but-don’t-tell-anyone Joshua; and naive, impressionable college freshman Jerilyn. Jerene’s brother, Gaston, is an infamously dissolute novelist and gossip who knows her secrets and Duke’s; while her sister, Dillard, is a reclusive prisoner of her own unfortunate choices. When a scandal threatens the Johnston family’s status and dwindling finances, Jerene swings into action...and she will stop at nothing to keep what she has and preserve her legacy. Wilton Barnhardt's Lookaway, Lookaway is a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart on the edge of the old South and the new, and an unforgettable woman striving to hold it together.
As I so often do, I did not read the synopsis when I borrowed this audio book from the library. I love starting a book with no preconceived idea of what it will be about. All I had to go on was the cover art and the title. My guess was that it was set in the South and in the past. I was right about it being the South, but not about the time period exactly. While it starts in the past, it is a more contemporary past than I expected.
I was also thrown by how the characters were all going to tie together. It starts with Jerilyn going off to college and her mother telling her not to join a sorority, then Gaston the writer makes an appearance, and then each of the characters has a piece of the story so that the point of view changes. I wasn't sure at first how the college freshman and the drunk writer were going to fit together. I would listen while running and as scenes unfolded and characters were together the pieces just started to click together.
This is a family full of secrets, some known by all but not spoken of, and some that are truly and deeply secrets. What do you do when your own family can't be counted on to be there for you? How much hurt and pain could be adverted by just taking the time to have honest conversations and how much do appearances really matter? And how long does one spend trying to break out of childhood roles and examples that were set at home?
- ISBN-13: 9781250022288
- Publisher: Picador
- Publication date: 6/24/2014
- Pages: 384
Meet the Author
Wilton Barnhardt is the author of three previous novels: Emma Who Saved My Life, Gospel, and Show World. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he teaches fiction in the masters of fine arts in the creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.