August 26, 2019
Ask Again, Yes
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
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
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!