Ask Again, Yes

A multi-generational look at two neighboring families torn apart by a tragic event, the unhealthy choices we pass on to our children, and the repercussions through the decades as the characters look for meaning in their relationships.

Synopsis:

Brian Stanhope and Francis Gleeson live next door to each other in the suburbs. What happens in their own homes, behind closed doors, sets the stage for tragedy and despair. The friendship of their children, Peter and Kate, as it prevails through the decades, sheds light on the meaning of love, family, marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.

— Mary Beth Keane

Review:

*Big Sigh*

I enjoy being a dissenting voice once in a while, especially for valid reasoning, and I’d say I’m heading that way with this review. The overwhelming majority on Goodreads and Instagram says “This is the book” and “Amazing!” and “Read this one NOW!”

…and I have to disagree.

First, let’s talk about what I DO like, because there is, in actuality, quite a bit. The characters are so complex and so flawed, and the story really delves into the heartbreak that can come from mental illness and alcoholism in families. The book handles a lot of extremely complex issues (just take a peek at my tags!) and they’re addressed really well. Some great nuance and open-ended thoughts around what might be a healthier road to take.

I enjoyed viewing the events from multiple viewpoints to really flesh out the scenario. It gave me this delicious sense of agony knowing that pasts are repeating, and that the characters are slipping into hurtful cycles. It’s a beautiful reminder that breaking a cycle of hurt is the only way to prevent the next generation from repeating our mistakes. Such a wonderful message.

However, this character driven novel felt like such a slow burn, and the ending was a bit of a false climax for me. I wasn’t entranced by the book, but felt the hype surrounding it was motivating me to search for that exquisite rush that never came. I kept trying to convince myself to like it more than I did. And while there were parts that were scorching and heart wrenching in their rich descriptions, there were other areas that left me wanting more. I started to get close to a character and be drawn into their thoughts and life, only to be roughly shifted to a different character’s perspective years in the future. It left me feeling detached from these characters who I desperately wanted to understand.

The more I let the novel sit in my memory (I’ve had to wait a few days to think about this one before I could get my thoughts together), the more I feel that it just didn’t blow me away. It’s redemptive and hopeful, stark and unflinching, tinged with melancholy. Ask Again, Yes is a fine read, with some really lovely aspects, but one that I just can’t join the masses in their extremely high praise.

We repeat what we don’t repair.

— Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, Yes
by Mary Beth Keane
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published May 28th 2019 by Scribner

Summary

A multi-generational look at two neighboring families torn apart by a tragic event, the unhealthy choices we pass on to our children, and the repercussions through the decades as the characters look for meaning in their relationships. It's redemptive and hopeful, stark and unflinching, tinged with melancholy. It's a fine read, with some really lovely aspects, but one that I just can't join the masses in their extremely high praise.

— Cassie
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