A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy
Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.
Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.
It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.
A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .
A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, 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.
A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.
The reason I adore being a bookblogger is that as no two books that I’m asked to review are ever the same. When I was invited onto the tour for #AskAgainYes I was really intrigued as I always like forming my own opinion about books that I’m hearing a real buzz about and then joining the conversation about them afterwards on my blog, it’s one of the best things about being a book blogger – being introduced to books that I’d never normally have picked up as well as hearing what all my other blogging friends thought too. It’s like a virtual book group where you are waiting every day to see what other people enjoyed about your book…
I was really intrigued to read Ask Again Yes as I love novels that deal with family relationships and how different generations interact and the complexities that lurk beneath the surfaces of most families’ lives. As soon as this book arrived, I wanted to open it up and find out how these family members’ lives would unfold and how these very ordinary lives would develop as the book progressed. I loved the initial premise of a terrible experience unfolding for a pair of families living side by side which would allow us to see the repercussions and ramifications on all of these lives and I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really wanted to get to the heart of their relationships and discover more about the impact of this and how the children would respond.
I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Mary Beth Keane’s novel allows us to see the reality of families and the complexity of relationships, rather than just the ‘happy ever after’ that we are so often presented with in fiction and I think that this is one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book. The way that individuals fall into their roles within families in the way that they interact with one another is exceptionally well-drawn and a testament to her skill as a writer that we really believe in their relationships with one another.
The way that she builds in the uncertainties about what’s really going on beneath the surface and slowly develops our understanding of what is going on in the heads of these characters is convincingly done and leads to you feeling like you can really start to understand them as people. Peter and Kate have such an interesting and well-drawn relationship and I’m looking forward to hearing what my sister thought of their response to the situation and the way it reverberates around their relationship and their pathway through life.
The scenes where these family members are trying to deal with the ramifications of the situation and the impact of the fallout on their relationships have an incredibly realistic feel and the comparisons with Anne Tyler are definitely well deserved. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to immerse myself in the intricacies of this family’s life and found it really thought-provoking to immerse myself in their lives and spend time thinking about the way that real families interact and think about the fact that truth is very often much stranger than fiction.
Ask Again Yes is a fascinating and immersive read as it takes a genuine look at what we really mean by ‘family’ in a way that never feels ‘worthy’ or sermonising. It allows us a glance into a relationship where peoples’ needs are complex and real and dares us to ask ourselves what we might have lost along the way in our own lives. Its setting in blue-collar America, in a similar era to my own teenage years is another aspect that I really enjoyed and it really made me feel like I was able to immerse myself in events where the very ordinary-ness of the surroundings and the complexities of what is unfolding is deftly juxtaposed.
I always enjoy a book much more if I don’t read other people’s reviews before I read it myself – but I had heard lots of people saying it was a pretty challenging read and I do agree – at times it did feel pretty relentless. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about these characters and the repercussions of this event whilst driving to work and getting on with household chores as they definitely felt real to me. I will definitely seek out more books by Mary Beth Keane and am keen to keep pushing myself to choose more novels ‘outwith my comfort zone’ in the second half of 2019.
Writer On The Shelf
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.
Follow the bloggers on the #AskAgainYes blog tour!