Ask Again, Yes
By: Mary Beth Keane
Published: May 28th, 2019
From the Cover:
How much can a family forgive?
A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
This book had me feeling nostalgic for Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Both books are extremely similar. There’s the intra- and inter-family drama, parenting woes, rebellious youth, and intricate relationships. I have to admit, this book doesn’t seem to have much of a riveting plot. It’s more a meditation on human behavior, consequences of choices, and coming of age. This book is a challenging read because it addresses some heavy topics: abuse, immigration, debilitating injury, mental illness, gun violence, addiction, suicide. I found myself on a rollercoaster of emotions reading through the years of these two families’ lives. I think Keane addresses just about every major heavy topic you can think of in order to inspire discussion and create talking points. It’s the perfect book club read.
I think the book is extremely well written. Keane does a fantastic job developing diverse characters that are dynamic, and constantly growing. She has a way of drawing empathy from the reader that is not forced; although the topics she covers are heavy, I never once felt weighed down by story unfolding before me.
Now for the negatives… I found the book read too slow. I know it’s not supposed to be a riveting and suspenseful novel, but at times I felt like the story was dragging along without significant plot or character development. Also, I found the ending to be anticlimactic (not that there was really much of a climax to the book anyways…). I got to the end and felt like Well, I guess that’s it, which was disappointing. I was hoping for something more profound, but I guess that’s a metaphor for life in a way; I guess you could say the ending was appropriate. Pick up this book if you enjoyed any Celeste Ng’s books or are looking for a character-driven meditation on life.