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.