Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

4 stars

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If you’re a book lover, you’ve probably seen this colorful cover floating around your social media feeds. If you’re a Book of the Month member, you may have picked this for your June book, as I did. And if you’re anything like me, you may be skeptical of books that have so much hype on multiple channels. It’s extremely hard to pick up a book that spammed your feed and was recommended by everyone only to be left extremely shattered with disappointment. I try to avoid this or at least brace myself for the heartache that will no doubt ensue. Yes – I take reading very seriously 🙂

Ask Again, Yes pleasantly surprised me on many fronts. Let me just get this out in the open now: this is a sad book with heavy topics. Should you still read this?  Absolutely 100%.  I have thought deeply about this book and its characters since finishing and as odd as it sounds, I like it more as time passes.

Francis Gleeson, an immigrant from Ireland and an officer with the NYPD, moves his young family to the suburbs. Shortly after, Brian Stanhope, also an officer and Francis’ partner for just a few weeks, moves in next door with his wife Anne. Despite both working for the NYPD, the two men barely know each other let alone call one another a friend. Francis’ wife Lena tries over and over to spark a friendship with Anne. Since both women are pregnant and due around the same time, she hopes they can be bonded in motherhood. Anne is not interested in friendship with her neighbors, or anyone for that matter. She stays secluded and unseen inside the home, raising questions from her curious neighbors and portraying herself as an unfriendly and extremely odd person.

Lena and Anne’s children, Katie and Peter, grow up six months apart. As fate goes, they become childhood best friends until one violent and dangerous night changes their relationship and their family dynamics forever.

Ask Again, Yes spans decades and is told through multiple character’s voices, often alternating views flawlessly. The writing in this book is fantastic and while some parts of this story had the possibility of confusing readers, Keane wove details in and out so eloquently that there was never a question.

Two things that I enjoyed most about this book are the characters and the themes. Keane developed each character so strongly that you truly felt their emotions alongside them. Each one holds a significant part in this story and while all slightly, or mostly, dysfunctional, this book would not succeed in telling its story without every single one of them. Like I mentioned, the themes were mostly sad and often heavy: depression, mental illness, pain, forgiveness, betrayal, love, friendship, misunderstanding, hope, fulfillment, emptiness, loneliness, abandonment, pride, happiness, illness. Seriously – you name it, you felt it with this one. As hard as it is to read through some of these, it’s reality for most of us – unless you are a unicorn living among the clouds. We’ve all been there and experienced things each character battled, both among other people or simply within themselves.

Ask Again, Yes makes you question your viewpoint and standards: Would you forgive them? Could you accept this? Would you be able to still find love in your heart? So often I would imagine my own reaction to these situations and found that my perspective would keep changing as the story unfolded. Keane does a tremendous job showing both sides of the story, the good and the bad. These families are so different, yet so connected and it’s impossible not to feel empathy, rage and understanding for all involved. The only reason I did not give it a 5 star rating is simple: it didn’t make me cry (believe it or not). While I became so lost and engulfed in the family drama and stories, I was still able to separate myself from the fictional elements and characters. It was emotional, yes. But if I’m going to give a book 5 stars, I better be crying.

This book sure was complicated, but not in the sense of reading. I flew through this in just a few days, rushing off the train after work to get home as fast as possible to bury myself among the pages. If you do anything this summer go buy this book, make yourself a cocktail, get cozy in your favorite spot and DIG IN. I promise – it’s worth the hype!

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