Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Published 5/28/19 by Scribner
ISBN: 9781982106980 (Hardcover)
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.
Trigger warnings: Cheating, attempted murder (Shooting), alcoholism, miscarriage, mention of multiple mental disorders—paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder—and possibly more triggers that I didn’t catch.
“They’d both learned that a memory is a fact that’s been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in that room, anyone else who was standing on the grass beneath that telephone pole.”
Story | I went into this book expecting to compare it to Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. The two books are apples and oranges. This one was more of a “love story” between two characters, and that was not the case with Ng’s novel.
I picked this one up earlier in the year—around when it first came out—and put it down for some reason. I’m happy I picked it back up because the story was actually pretty interesting. It deals a lot with mental health. All the characters have inner turmoil that they need to deal with, plus everything else that is going on around them. If you’re not big on character-based books, then this one may not be for you.
Characters | Some characters fell a little flat, and where this is a character driven-story, it makes an impact. It definitely affected my rating of the novel. There wasn’t a single character that made me want to remember them for years to come. With that being said, I did feel sympathy for all of them.
It seemed like all the characters were meant to be seen as villains at some point in the story. If it wasn’t attempted murder, it was a problem with a poor habit. There was a lot of bickering and fighting. I did root for Kate and Peter, and they proved that love can work with just a bit of elbow grease.
Unfortunately, my least favorite character is Anne, but Brian also made it to the top of that list. I didn’t like him from the beginning, and I could see why him and Anne were together. Peter was not blessed with good parents, and I’m sure Anne would have been a better mom if not for her “mental” problems. I don’t think it was even stated what was actually wrong with her. Listed in the book is just a bunch of possible illnesses.
Writing | The writing is your basic good fiction writing. Nothing wowed me while reading it, but it also didn’t bore me to death.
Overall | Would I read this again? Not in the foreseeable future, but there is something inside me that thinks I would. I rarely reread books because there are so many others I need to get to for the first time. It felt a little drawn out toward the last third of the book, but the book redeemed itself at the end. I just wish the characters came alive a little more. This was a good book, and if you’re looking for another contemporary fiction book, I recommend you pick this up.
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