Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane Michael Joseph August 8th 2019
A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on 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 stunning events to come.
Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.
But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
When you are in a reading slump you pick up a book, you like it but it doesn’t have that spark, the thing that reignites your enthusiasm. I had heard a lot about Ask Again Yes and knew through my involvement with the Radio 2 Book Club that this has been chosen so snapped up the opportunity to be on the blogtour. I knew straightaway I had found that spark, knew that my reading slump was over.
What gripped me more than anything was the characters, they were real, believable and you wanted to invest time getting to know them.
Peter, slightly aloof, the product of a difficult family., a mother who as time went on spiralled out of control, gripped by psychological problems that would blight Peter’s life. His father unable to understand to cope, to offer support to his son, as he hid behind his job.
Their neighbours were the complete opposite, a loving close family, the baby Kate had friends galore, popular well liked.
Keane threw Peter and Kate together, their connection begun in childhood until a tragic event forced them apart, until they years later they came back together.
Keane showed us two people with very different trajectories in life, Kate focused, driven, Peter aimless uncertain. Keane brilliantly picked Peter apart, his every emotion on the page, the turmoil he felt over his mother, his love for her that was always there, the responsibility he felt towards her. It made me angry, frustrated, and sad, the fragments of happiness seemed short lived and you could see his spiralling decent into oblivion, and willed him to fight his way back.
You watched Kate attempt to hold things together, admired her stoicism, her strength and bravery.
Keene played with our emotions she made us feel euphoric, happy before she plummeted us back down into the depths of despair. The way in which she handled Anne, Peter’s mother’s depression and psychological illness was superb, never overplayed just as it was and you felt heartbroken and cross that no one understood, took the time to help her.
Ultimately Ask Again Yes was a story of two families, their connections, their joint tragedy, the consequences, the rebuilding, and the fight to move forward.
It was one of those novels where you wanted that happy ending but were never sure you were going to get it. The narrative was superb, utterly compelling, with depth and full of anguish and emotion.
This book deserves huge praise, the author huge respect, it was just brilliant.
I would like to thank Michael Joseph for a copy of Ask Again Yes to read and review and to Sriya Varadharajan for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35,” and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People, Fever, and Ask Again, Yes.