Book review: “This Is How We Got Here” by Keith Barker

This is How We Got Here

 

I received a copy of “This is How We Got Here” from Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for a free and honest review. I requested it based on the description and, let’s be honest, the cover.

 

Description

 

It’s been a year since Paul and Lucille’s son Craig committed suicide, and their once-solid family bonds are starting to break down. While the now-separated couple tries to honour their son, Lucille’s sister Liset and her husband Jim refuse to discuss their nephew. The ties that keep the four together as sisters, best friends, and spouses are strained by grief and guilt… until a visit from a fox changes everything.

 

About author

 

Keith Barker is a Métis artist from Northwestern Ontario. A graduate of the George Brown Theatre School, he has worked professionally as an actor, playwright, and director for the past sixteen years. He is a recipient of the SATAward for Excellence in Playwriting and the Yukon Arts Audience Award for Best Art for Social Change for his play The

Hours That Remain. He has served as a theatre program officer at the Canada Council for the Arts, and is currently the artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto.

 

Review

 

I was lucky enough, not only to read the copy “This is How We Got Here”  but also listen to Keith Barker read excerpts from it at Playwrights Canada Press Fall Launch party and the readings as part of Native Earth’s Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival in November of 2017. Keith’s voice as he read the dialogues was so perfect and natural for the story that I kept hearing his voice in my head as I read the play.

 

Even before starting “This is How We Got Here”, I knew that this play would be a hard one to swallow. The premise of the story is tragic, more so, since Keith Barker had to deal with a similar tragedy in his family and some of the situations were drawn from his own experiences.

 

This is a story about a close-knit family which starts to fall apart as some of them refuse to acknowledge and deal with the loss and others lose themselves in it. “This is How We Got Here” is full of raw and unapologetic dialogues between couples, friends and siblings, as they all try to make sense of what their lives should be. They lash out at each other in the way that only the closest people can – pushing the buttons almost to the point of no return with the words that hurt the most.

 

The writing in “This is How We Got Here” is so realistic and true to life that anyone can relate to the story regardless of whether they experienced a profound loss or not. You can take any line from the play, and I am sure you have either said it yourself or had it said to you. In spite of the grievous theme of the plot, I can see myself reading this play over and over.

 

The introduction of a fox into the plot was rather surprising as I did not expect it to be relevant at all. It can be viewed as either an aspect of magical realism in the play or just the struggles of an unravelling mind of Lucille. I am a bit torn as I like both ideas equally, so I’d rather stay in the dark as what was the actual intention of the author.

 

I don’t know how to recommend “This is How We Got Here” well enough without making it sound as if it is only about grief. Yes, it is the story of grief, and loss, and mental health, and, perhaps, even bullying, and about broken families, and, yes, it will make you cry. But it is also the story of hope and trying to rebuild what is broken. It was very much worth your time.

 

I am very grateful to Playwrights Canada Press for once again giving me an opportunity to read and review one of their brilliant plays.

 

Rating: 4.5 stars

 

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