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August 26, 2019

Ask Again, Yes



Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Fiction
2019 Simon and Schuster Audio
Read by Molly Pope
Finished on August 22, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Keane takes on one of the most difficult problems in fiction - how to write about human decency . . . a compelling case for compassion over blame, understanding over grudge, and the resilience of hearts that can accept the contradictions of love. ~ Louise Erdrich, National Book Award winning author of The Round House

Publisher's Blurb:

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.


I spent almost an entire month listening to this powerful book, not because it was dull and plodding, but because I wanted to savor the story and wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters, all of whom I had come to care and worry about as though they were my neighbors and friends. Molly Pope does an outstanding job as the audio reader for this poignant family drama and each character stands alone in my mind's eye, thanks to her excellent narration. 

Spanning four decades, Keane's narrative, while not a mystery, maintained just enough tension to keep me listening at every opportunity. I enjoyed learning the details of events as they were gradually teased out in alternating perspectives, which helped to shed light on the motives and reactions of both families, allowing a deeper understanding of the turmoil experienced by each character. It only took a few chapters for me to realize this would be a winner and one that would wind up on my Top Ten list for 2019. A touching story peopled with believable and endearing characters, this engaging work of literary fiction is one that will stay with me a long time. Actually, it's one I want to re-read in print, so I will add it to my book club list of recommendations for 2020. Will I remember the title? Probably not. But I will remember the two families whose intersecting lives were filled with doubts, regret, heartbreak, misunderstandings, doubt and, ultimately, forgiveness. I can't wait to check out Keane's backlist!

10 comments:

  1. I loved this book as well. I've heard her backlist is wonderful too.

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    1. Kathy, I'm glad to hear that her backlist is also worthwhile. I'm eager to read more by her!

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  2. Glad you enjoyed this one. I thought the audio was well done.

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    1. Diane, it was a good audio, wasn't it?!

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  3. I've got this one on my Kindle to read at some point. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not suggested for our afternoon book group for next year. I'd have to look at the number of library copies because that is the first hurdle to pass (must have more than 25 copies). And I'm hearing really good reports about it. Suspect I'll like it. Might have to check out the audio as well and do a 'read-listen'. I also took at look at her backlist to see if I recognized anything. She wrote FEVER, which I am familiar with but haven't read. It's about 'Typhoid Mary' and is a historical fiction book. OK, I am so clueless. As I'm typing this I'm glancing over at your cover shot on the right. On the cover it says - 'author of FEVER'. So....guess I didn't have to look that one up. Ha!!!

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    1. Kay, I think Fever sounds like a good read, too! I'll have to look for that one at our library after we get back from our big road trip. I don't think they'd appreciate me keeping books for 2 months. ;) Hope you enjoy this new release of hers. It should make for a good book club read. I'm so behind with blog-hopping. Hope to catch up soon. For now, prepping for the road trip & wedding are #1 on my To Do list!

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  4. I'm half way through this book and absolutely love it. I feel so sorry for most of the characters and just can't wait to see how this gets wrapped up.

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    1. Iliana, are you reading or listening? I find that I'm still thinking about those wonderful characters. I didn't like a few of them, but I cared about their lives and relationships.

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  5. Thanks for this wonderful review. I hope I can read it soon.

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    1. You're welcome, Deb. I still think about these characters...

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