Ask Again, Yes
Mary Beth Keane
I very much enjoyed this story about two families in a suburban town outside New York. A tragic event splits them apart and the resulting pain haunts them for decades. The story begins in New York in 1973 as Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope graduate from the police academy. Marriage and children follow and the two families become next door neighbors in the fictional town of Gillam. As the children grow, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope become best friends and are on the verge of romance until the night that changes the course of both families’ lives.
After that night, Kate and Peter’s families are burdened with trying to move on and many other problems, including hushed family secrets and worries of history repeating itself. Each character wonders if the events could have been altered had they acted differently. They struggle with marriage, parenthood, and the rippling effects of mental illness, alcoholism and sexual abuse. And whether they like it or not, their families will always be interconnected.
What I liked most about this book is the way I got to know the characters and saw how they worked through situations over time, finding their way back to each other. But first, readers see how the families, engaged in daily life, don’t acknowledge their deeper problems until they lead to bigger crises. I also liked Brian’s brother, George, whose quiet resilience and self-knowledge is there for any of them to see, if they would only notice. By the end of the story, I felt like I understood why each acted the way they did.
I don’t want to give anything more away, because family dramas are much more enjoyable if you experience the events as they unfold. And although the families’ problems seem overwhelming, friendship, love, acceptance and forgiveness ultimately dominate.
Ask Again, Yes was voted a 2019 Summer Read by fans of Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show (read about that here). And for readers who like to know how authors develop stories, here’s a BookPage interview with Mary Beth Keane.
I recommend Ask Again, Yes to readers who like family sagas and stories about resilience. I think it would make a good book club book.
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