Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Book: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | Genre: contemporary, literary fiction | Page count: 390 | Published: May 28th 2019 by Scribner

Blurb (taken from Goodreads)

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.

My thoughts

I felt like I was having deja vu when I started this book. I’m almost positive that I’ve read the prologue before, but nothing after that was familiar. I can’t think of a reason that I would have started this book and not finished it, which is so weird. Anyways, on to the review.

First of all, Mary Beth Keane is an incredible storyteller! It’s clear that she put a lot of care into writing and formatting Ask Again, Yes. She divided the book into several parts, named them and decorated their title pages with geometric shapes. Her narrative style makes a strong impression because she uses fairly long prose passages to describe what happens to the characters and how they feel. When she uses scenes, they tend to be short and reserved for important events. I don’t think it’s a style I necessarily prefer but the further I read along, the more it paid off. 

The narrative had so much depth and the characters were so well written. Peter and Kate were such realistic characters and I really cared for them emotionally. I loved watching their childhood affection for each other bloom and then flourish in adulthood. Their relationship showed that love is more than a feeling, it’s a choice. Their lives become increasingly difficult as they get older, but they never give up on their love. Together they deal with mental illness, alcoholism, child abuse, and abandonment. Keane deserves praise for how she wrote about these topics in a such a delicate and affecting way!

I loved Peter right from the start and my heart broke for him so many times. He’s a character that can easily be empathized with and watching him grow up was so moving. Peter’s relationship with his Uncle George was really heartwarming in a subtle way. At first I had this fear that he was going to be an abusive relative, but that wasn’t the case at all. George was so caring and even though he didn’t always express himself, his intentions made my heart go ahhh!!!

Peter and Kate can’t escape their families intertwined past but watching them navigate it with openness and honesty was refreshing. The history between the Gleeson’s and the Stanhope’s adds so much complexity to this story. It was crafted so well and the tragedy that occurs took me by complete surprise. Forgiveness is a key theme and it certainly does not come easily. The characters had to work to be forgiven for their wrongs and that made it so much more satisfying. 

Ask Again, Yes started off slow, but it gradually picked up pace and intensity. Based off the first 100 ish pages I didn’t expect to rate this book more than 3.5 stars, but once I hit a certain point, I seriously couldn’t put it down! A lot of research on police work, mental health and addiction went into this story and the overall result was pretty amazing. Some parts were a bit dull, but after some contemplation I decided that this book is a solid 4.5 stars. It was an emotional and thought-provoking read and I highly recommend it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What do you think about this book? Have you ever had deja vu while reading?

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane”

  1. […] Ask Again, Yes is an emotional story about two neighbouring families and a tragedy that impacts all of them forever. It doesn’t have forbidden love in a Romeo and Juliet kind of way, but Peter and Kate’s romance threatens to tear their families apart, so I’d say this book checks the right boxes. […]

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