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Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane

What a book, what a book! I don’t really know how to feel after that one, but I do know it was a fantastic read. Ask Again, Yes follows the stories of two families, who’s lives become intertwined when the rookie cops move their families into adjacent houses in the suburbs of New York.

Francis Gleeson doesn’t really know Brian Stanhope so well, but when the house next door to his in this suburban paradise goes up for sale, he mentions it to Brian who moves in with his young pregnant wife. This decision kick starts our story and sets in motion a series of events that tie the families together, for better or for worse.

“We repeat what we don’t repair.”

As time goes on, we follow the lives of the Gleeson’s and the Stanhope’s through the points of view of each of the parents, and their children who are the same age, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope.

Whilst the parents could not keep further away from each other, Kate and Peter are drawn together and form a bond that proves unbreakable by even the most testing of tragedies.

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

The changing points of view is one of the best parts of this novel, allowing us to feel such a myriad of emotions. Each character is unique and strong, dealing with different issues and reacting to events in varying ways. You can spend time in one characters head, hating and not understanding another, but once you see from their point of view you see and feel a whole other side to the story. My heart broke for all of them, such good people affected by the brutal nature of life.

For an added layer of complexity, we are with these characters over a vast span of their lives, living how they change over time. This is most evident in Kate and Peter who are born and grow into their late 40’s throughout the book. We read them change and grow and understand what they once did not as kids. Likewise, we see how events can affect one’s life 50 years later, and pass on to their children in a way that may appear invisible but has a huge ripple effect.

“She’d learned that the beginning of one’s life mattered the most, that life was top-heavy that way.”

Keane’s writing is beautiful giving us details and descriptions light enough to enhance the story without drowning the reader, while keeping the focus on the multi-faceted characters. I would say Ask Again, Yes is light on the dialogue, choosing to tell our story more through the actions and feelings of each person. I both hated and loved every person here, depending on the point of view, and for me that is so characteristic of how people can feel in real life.

The novel is split into four sections of the different stages of their lives. The pacing starts off nicely with a bit of a lull around the first third, by halfway we’ve well and truly picked up and from then I just couldn’t put it down. Keane jumps through a huge time span focusing on little moments here and there for each character, helping to give a sense of who they are. These moments trickle in details that build fully realised characters and also allow the story to unfold, rather than jump out of a box at you.

Ask Again, Yes is a poignant story of great tragedies and how they leave marks on who we are as people, and affect the ones we hold close. It’s presents the ultimate dilemma of what forgiveness means, and who truly deserves it and asks the question, if you knew what was about to happen, would you still say yes to that life.

“Would you have said yes back then if you’d known?”
“But I know now. So ask me.”
But he couldn’t find the right words.

“I’ll give you a hint,” she said, squeezing his hands until he looked up to meet her eyes. “Then and now, I say yes.”

I’ve come out of it feeling both saddened for and proud of the Gleeson and Stanhope families and grateful my own hasn’t been as tested.

This book I used for one of my many challenge prompts this year!

It made my Popsugar list – check out my progress here!

8 thoughts on “Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane

Add yours

  1. Wonderful review! I’m so excited to read this one. There has been so much hype around it and I’m seeing quite a few mixed reviews but I hope I fall in the side of loving it! I can tell this is going to be put me through an emotional wringer 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think these books that are so emotional can really divide people! The only negative for me is probably it was a bit slow in places but that’s pretty common for these kinds of character driven stories I find.

      I hope you enjoy it if you decide tp pick it up!


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