Publisher : Spuyten Duyvil
Publication Date : June 2018
ISBN : 978-1-947980-21-1
Category : LCSH: Dating (Social customs)–Fiction. | Interpersonal relations–Fiction.
Paperback : 292 pages
Cover Art : I See You!!! (2007), by Louise Bourgeois
Distributed by Ingram
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Barbara Henning’s new novel Just Like Thatcharts with profound depth and sophistication the course of an interracial love affair.. . . Since it’s revealed early on that the affair ended badly, the reader approaches the story with the query: Where did things go wrong? And this is explored in the book in a searching, aching manner.. . . It is only among such people who construct lives outside of the bleakly conformist mainstream culture where a love affair can still be an adventure . . . Contrary to what my discussion may suggest, the novel is not a treatise but a passionately detailed chronicle; excruciatingly painful at times of conflict between the pair; vividly life-affirming at others when the couple achieve a temporary, joyful balance. The question posed at the beginning is never resolved; that’s not the point. What is at issue is that, as the reader sees the partnership unravel in all its complexity, is that a personal, sociological and historical tangle is illuminated in real time. As readers of other work of this author will know, Henning plays a game with no simplicity, no false simplicity, only a lucid depiction of life in all its fecundity with a sure gauge of the politics of the personal.
Review by Jim Feast, Gathering of the Tribes, September 4, 2018
Henning’s fictional memoir takes place in New York City with flash backs to Detroit in the 70s. The characters are developed through daily short vignettes. The narrator, Sara, a teacher, poet and yoga practitioner, falls in love with her acupuncturist and finds herself helping him raise a small child while living together in her tiny studio in the East Village. Both she and Jabari grew up in working class families, married and had children. Sara lost her mother when she was 11 years old, and her father was emotionally absent. Jabari grew up with both parents, but his mother was physically abusive, and unlike Sara, he was African American growing up in a racist society. With shared interests in yoga, alternative health and politics, as well as an erotic attraction for each other, they establish a loving connection, but past experiences begin to cause misperceptions and misunderstandings. Sara tries to understand his extreme mood changes and her emotional response. In an effort to see clearly and to emerge from a state of anguish, she begins to write a novel about the relationship. At first, the events in their lives determine the direction of the novel, but after a while, the act of writing becomes a spiritual practice helping her to move forward with her own life.
In Just Like That, Barbara Henning’s compelling voice slips into gorgeous interiorities where we meet the oracular. She writes, “Sometimes I wondered whether I was writing the relationship or the relationship was writing the novel.” She then layers translucent maps on top of one another – the map of New York City and the map of the body’s systems – and what emerges is a cartography composed of radiant details able to project the signals of love and recovery. Selah Saterstrom
Barbara Henning’s latest novel, Just Like That, chronicles the ways in which traumatic experiences prescribe the patterns of one’s life. The push and pull of creative and destructive impulses propel Sara as she navigates the layered stories of her past and present, attempting to redraft her future with the man she loves. This memoiristic fiction investigates mercurial, meandering desire. Unblinklingly it stares into the complicated chambers of the human heart. Martine Bellen
In Just Like That, Barbara Henning creates a maze of longing—the lost object of desire, the pressure of a hand in the dark, the ghosts of everyone she has ever met roaming through the snowdrifts of a dream-like city. At the heart of the book are the questions we all ask: how close can you get to another person? What do you really know about anyone else? Can you ever wash out all the stains? Just Like That opens a door into a future which is already here, and where the elusive questions are all but unanswerable. Henning never stops trying—and this remarkable book is the ultimate account of what happens along the way. Lewis Warsh