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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt

A big reason I read this novel is because it's set in Charlotte, NC, where I live. And it did add an extra element of fun to the story, figuring out if Charlottetowne Country Club was real and imagining the Johnston's house off Providence Road, not to mention just reading all the names familiar to anyone who's ever driven through the city. I was put off by one minor error: Davidson College does not and has never had a seminary school. It is a College, not a University, and therefore has no schools at all aside from the undergraduate liberal arts college. But I was able to push past that.

This is the story of the Johnston family, who go back to the civil war. Jerene is the matriarch presiding over the family's room of art at the Mint Museum, and trying to straighten out the messes of her three children, husband, and brother-in-law, without anyone finding out how precariously close the family is to bankruptcy and losing their place in high society.

Each of the (long) chapters is told from the point of view of a different character in the book. Initially, I really liked this and it was fun, but I wish the author had returned to some of the characters later on, instead of giving us the POVs of increasingly distant and non-central characters. Particularly because this meant there were plot threads in each chapter that were never resolved. I wanted to know what happened to Jerilyn in the rest of college and what was the point of Joshua's friend that he bailed out of jail and why Duke never went back to practicing law aside from inertia (I felt like there was a big secret implied with the last question which was never satisfied.) Because of the format of the narrative, it is very hard to have one cohesive narrative arc pulling all the stories together, and I'm not sure Mr. Barnhardt succeeded. However, I think that readers not as attuned to piecing together of a novel are unlikely to notice. The high society details seemed right on the mark (to this decidedly middle-class reader) and it was gossipy and fun, with elements of darkness lurking to be sure it didn't flit off into silliness.

I bought this book from Park Road Books, my local independent bookstore.

1 comment:

Tea norman said...

Good Teaser, can't really get use to the title.