Review: ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane

Review:  ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth KeaneAsk Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
four-half-stars
Published by Scribner on May 28, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASK AGAIN, YES  Review

 

Mary Beth Keane’s latest novel Ask Again, Yes is a poignant and powerful exploration of what happens when an unexpected tragedy rocks the lives of two neighboring families.  It follows Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, who grew up together in a suburban neighborhood in New York.  Although their fathers are both NYPD police officers, the two families really don’t have much to do with one another.  Peter’s mother Anne is especially standoffish, so after a few early attempts to make friends, Kate’s mom gave up. In spite of that awkwardness, Kate and Peter still find each other and become best friends.  In the spring of their 8th grade year, just as their relationship is blossoming into more that friendship, tragedy strikes and an unthinkable act of violence pushes the two families even further apart.  Peter’s family is forced to leave, and he and Kate are forbidden from contacting each other. Kate and Peter do eventually reconnect as adults, but can they have any kind of relationship when the events of the past still haunt both them and their families?

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This novel just really moved me on so many different levels.  I was immediately drawn to the friendship between young Kate and Peter.  Keane does such a wonderful job of portraying their relationship as they move from the innocence of childhood to the excitement of falling in love for the first time.  Both characters are so well drawn and everything about the evolving of their relationship just felt so authentic.  What happens between the two families would be considered tragic no matter what, but it was especially heartbreaking to see what it does to these two very likeable children.

I also found myself incredibly invested in both families, not just because of Kate and Peter, but because all of the characters in this book feel so realistic.  Everything for them is messy and complicated, just like real life.  The intimate look Keane gives us into their lives — their reactions to things that happen, their strengths and weaknesses as they try to cope with the aftermath of that tragic event, etc. — all of it just made me feel like these two families could easily be my own neighbors.

Aside from the intimate look into the lives of these two families, what also drew me to Ask Again, Yes are all of the themes it explores.  Yes, it’s a story about family, friendship, and love, but it’s also a story about mental illness, tragedy, and the power of forgiveness.  I also love that it gives us the perspective of how something that seems one way when we’re children can seem like something entirely different when we reflect back on it as adults, especially the idea that no one is as innocent or guilty as they may seem.

If you’re looking for a moving family drama that will tug at your heartstrings, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes is a book you should add to your must-read list.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

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.

 

four-half-stars

About Mary Beth Keane

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.