ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane

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.


Title : Ask Again, Yes
Author : Mary Beth Keane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 390
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Penguin Michael Joseph
Release Date : August 8, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


3.5 – 4 stars

ASK AGAIN, YES is something of a heavy read with challenging topics; I felt like I had completed a marathon when I’d finished but I mean that in a good way. The book had wrung me out emotionally and I needed time to rest my mind and think afterwards.

This is a complex story of two families across two generations. Their lives were so interwoven and yet they were not close to one another. Through proximity, circumstance, tragedy and then attraction, they were repeatedly brought together and pushed one another away.

The storyline starts with the parents of these two families but over the whole of the book, it felt like the story centred on Peter and Kate. I held my breath over these two and I didn’t feel a completion at the end; I don’t think the reader is supposed to. Anne was incredibly difficult to like as a character and I admire the author for where she went with mental illness and this character. We rarely see books that will go to the extent of exposing the psychology and behaviours of someone with this level of illness. I liked Francis, I found him solid, reliable and real. George was the unsung hero of this book.

Most readers will feel the heaviness of the topics expored in this book, which include acute psychosis, addiction, cheating, first love, the effect of trauma on the psyche, grief and loss and abandonment. It’s a lot but it didn’t feel unrealistic for the timescale, the range of characters and the narrative gently and sometimes bluntly led you into these issues with skill.

This was an impressive, memorable and epic story. I felt a lack of completion overall and needed a bit more in terms of closure. Mary Beth Keane wrote the complexity with simplicity and I would read her work again.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

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