Thursday, August 29, 2013

The true new South


Book: Loookaway, Lookaway

Author: Wilton Barhnhardt

Published: 2013 (St. Martin’s Press)

Pages: 359

New book time! Woo! I checked this out because I read the synopsis on our library’s website and man, I can’t pass me up a passable satire of modern Southern life. I think that’s because I’ve always lived in the south, have rarely even traveled out of it, yet I don’t feel or sound like I’m a native around here. So if someone wants to tell me how my fellow below-the-Mason-Dixon-ers connect with their homeland, I am all for hearing how the hell they do it.

This isn’t so much a satire – which, okay, thank goodness, because I have a terribly tin ear when it comes to rooting out that stuff – as the slightly ridiculous way of life being revealed through different family members of a North Carolina legacy way past the time when anyone except the mother pretends the old ways are better. And even she’s just finishing-school old-school, with a steel spine to keep the good china as long as possible before they have to sell it to make the mortgage on their inherited mansion.
 

So there are various family adventures that start with the most boring one, with the spineless of the children, the youngest daughter, going away to college and making a really weak, clichĂ©d attempt to become a party animal. And then I feel horrible for describing all this like I am because she gets assaulted, but…there aren’t any personal details that makes it feel real, so even that scene was very by-the-numbers.

Things get better, though, and if the author would’ve started with the mom of steel and used her actions to hint about what happened, that would’ve been so much more effective, because that’s how all the other scandalous family secrets (don’t worry, I won’t tell you what they are, but also don’t worry because they’re fairly standard but still impactful) come to light.

I will say this: load Civil War muskets figure prominently into two separate climatic scenes. It’s a little redundant. Possibly trying to show how history repeats itself and nobody really learns, but I think that message could’ve been a lot subtler or at least more imaginative.

However! I enjoyed this overall. No punches pulled but nothing exaggerated into cartoons of Rhett and Scarlett. Families are weird, and in the South if we don’t like you we will polite you to death (I have learned that art).

Back to the library ASAP so the next person in the holds queue can get it.

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