Thursday, February 6, 2014
Audiobook Review: Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Title: Lookaway, Lookaway
Author: Wilton Barnhardt
Narrator: Scott Shepherd
Unabridged Length: 16 hrs, 10 mn.
Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
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 mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family's legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what's left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.
Barnhardt weaves a story for us about a well-known Southern family that seems to be slowly losing their grasp on upper society. Jerene and Duke Johnston have fought to keep the family status that comes with the Johnston name, but how will they be able to continue after the fortune has dwindled.
We hear the story first-hand from all of the Johnston family members. The book opens with the youngest daughter, Jerilyn narrating. The young debutante has her life ahead of her as she starts her life in college. When unspeakable events take place to Jerilyn, her mother sweeps in taking care of the situation in a ruthless and effective way, deciding to never speak of it again. This sets a tone for Jerilyn's future as she never confronts her emotions from this life event.
Jerene Johnston may seem like the heartless matriarch only concerned that her family comes out of any storm unharmed. If they are even to make a profit from the troubles, then that is even better. When we hear Jerene's story, we come to learn what made her the woman she is today.
I could go on about all of the characters, but I will just share that we learn the intimate secrets and details of the entire family. Shepherd was an enjoyable narrator to listen to, but I couldn't help but think I would have enjoyed a woman's narration more. The women seemed to dominate the novel to me so I believe that a female narrator with a Southern drawl would have reeled it in for me. I think I also would have enjoyed it more if the story was told from less points of view.
I did enjoy listening to this entertaining story of Southern money and high-society. With themes of Southern society, family, and secrets, you may enjoy this novel even more than I did. I recommend this novel for either personal leisure or as a book group discussion.
My Rating: 3/5
Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audio Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.