Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
(St. Martin’s Press; 368 pages; $25.99)
The Johnstons of North Carolina really do put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Your family will look tame and even normal by comparison. Scandal seems to follow members of the Johnston family, proud descendants of Confederate Civil War General Joseph E. Johnston. Tradition, pride, and appearance matter a great deal to them, yet one thing is certain: the Johnstons will not be sending out Christmas letters along with their Christmas cards anytime soon. You know the ones I mean, and you probably have relatives who’ve sent you these, too, bragging about what their kids have accomplished this year.
Although Lookaway, Lookaway is not written in the same unique style in which Maria Semple wrote Where’d You Go, Bernadette, this singularly Southern story will appeal to Semple’s fans. While Semple caricatured Seattle culture, Barnhardt satirizes the South.
Barnhardt offers up wit and cleverness, a combination guaranteed to elicit a loud guffaw or two. Case in point: “You’ll do something, I would hope, with your future Carolina degree,” Jerene Jarvis Johnston tells her daughter, Jerilyn, when she leaves for college. “Enjoy your independence. Work for a few years before you see which of the young men at Carolina seems destined for something besides his parents’ basement. Or, given the atmosphere at Carolina, rehab.” Wickedly hilarious, this piercing story will soon be all everyone is talking about. Lookaway, Lookaway is the perfect social satire—Southern style.