Monday, July 15, 2019

Book Review: "Ask Again, Yes" by Mary Beth Keane

The repercussions of a decision or an action can have ripple effects for years to come. No better is this demonstrated than in Mary Beth Keane's new novel, Ask Again, Yes. This story of how much we owe those we love and how much we should endure for the sake of family is tremendously thought-provoking and emotional.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are both rookie policemen for the NYPD in the 1970s. They build a friendship of sorts based on their mutual Irish heritage, although it is not a solid friendship because Francis is much more focused on being a good cop than Brian is. Still, the two wind up living next door to each other with their wives and children outside the city.

While Francis' youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian's son Peter, only six months apart in age, become inseparable friends, the Stanhopes—particularly Anne, Brian's wife—keep the Gleesons at a distance. Anne isn't interested in building a relationship with her neighbors, and she is definitely against the idea of Peter and Kate becoming closer as they grow into their teenage years.

One night, an explosive situation rocks both families and changes everything, inflicting irrevocable damage. Kate and Peter both are forced to make choices they might not have otherwise, and bear more burdens than they should at that age. But regardless of the circumstances, neither is far from the other's mind or heart, despite how much they are encouraged to move on.

Over the course of 30-plus years, the fallout from that one night continues to wreak havoc with many lives. But rather than let it control them forever, it is up to Kate and Peter to do what they can to shed that burden. But that is easier said than done, especially with the memories of those days which keep weighing on them.

"They'd both learned that a memory is a fact that's been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in that room, anyone else who was standing on the grass beneath that telephone pole."

Ask Again, Yes is a story about love, both romantic and familial. It's a story about resentment, about familial obligation, and whether you should choose your own path or do what's best for everyone else. It's also a story about not letting your past define you, and trying to find strength to rebuild even when all you want to do is curl into a hole.

This book has a lot of emotions running through it, lots of situations that might cause you to think, "What would I do in this situation?" Keane is an excellent storyteller and she has created characters with real flaws, characters you wish you could shake some sense into from time to time.

Perhaps because this book was more character-driven than plot-driven, it moved very slowly for me. I didn't want to stop reading it, but I kept hoping that it would grab me completely. I will admit I did get a bit emotional toward the end so it did resonate for me, but it just didn't quite blow me away as much as it has others. But given the feedback I've seen, you may want to give this one a try!!

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