Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publishing Date: 8th August 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
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.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope got to know each other through the New York City police academy and worked as partners later. Later, they move into neighbouring houses in the small town of Gillam and start their own families, Francis with Anna and Brian with Lena. While Gleesons have three daughters, the Stanhopes have only one son. There is only six months difference between Kate and Peter, and they immediately bond with each other, becoming true friends. A few years later however, and a tragedy occurs, changing the lives of everyone in both families and the Stanfords having to move away. Fast forward some years, Kate and Peter, now adults, are still trying to come to terms with what has happened, navigating through the years filled with pain and unfairness, nevertheless throwing themselves into what future brings. But the memories hunt them, and past becomes a millstone round their necks.
This book was for me a slow burner. It took me a long time to finally, eventually fully get into it (well, it spans over 40 years and revolves around only two families), to get what the author wanted to tell us, to cotton on what the story is about – my bad, I admit, but then the story was unputdownable, taking an unexpected twist when something really tragic happens, shaping the lives of the characters, and not necessary in a positive way. It’s a novel that will leave you mentally drained and thinking about it all the time, even after you’ve finished reading it.
Each of the characters has its own, distinctive voice and the author lets them speak. They’re full of faults, they make mistakes, they’re not always likeable but they feel real and often I felt a pang of sympathy for them, even if I haven’t supported all their choices. They were through so many trials and tribulations that it was impossible not to fell for them, especially for Kate and Peter, although – and I loved how it made me feeling – one moment you’ll be feeling like you are betraying the other side by liking the other characters.
It was a heart – wrenching and mentally draining family – drama, for me very character driven. The author has done a brilliant job in describing her characters, though what blew me really away was how great her understanding of human nature is and how deep and realistic she writes about characters’ interactions. This story is full to brims with feelings and emotions, even if they’re not mentioned on every single page, but they’re there, dealt with care and sensitivity. And it’s in both, the characters and the plot, that there is tons of soul – baring honesty and reality, I couldn’t imagine the characters to behave differently. The author has an incredible way with words, and is a great storyteller. The relationships that she paints are true to life, even if masterfully crafted, her observations are spot on and she doesn’t shy away from writing about burning and difficult issues.
“Ask Again, Yes” is a complex, disturbing book with the feeling of something wrong going to happen at any moment, and you simply want to keep reading, can’t leave this fictional world. It deals not only with family bonds, but addiction, mental illness and the repercussions when it’s not treated. However, deep inside this sadness and darkness, there is light and heart and hope, and it explores life and love and everyday life in a unique way. Unique, thought – provoking and clever – recommended!
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