Book Review: Ask Again, Yes - Mary Beth Keane

September 27, 2020

 From Goodreads: "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."

Ask Again, Yes, is the first book in a long time which I have felt the need to sit down and read and read and read until I had finished. This is a testament to Keane's sensitive, nuanced portrayal of human behaviour, as this book is certainly not plot-driven in the sense that you cannot wait to find out what happens next. Rather, it's a thought-provoking family drama which focuses on a single event which happens whilst Kate and Peter are children, and the longstanding effect this has on each of theirs and their families' lives. 

I can be quite hard to sway in my opinion on certain characters (and people) after they've made their first impression, but what is very remarkable about this book is the way in which Keane forces you to constantly reassess the way you feel about each character by exploring how they have acted and what they have experienced from multiple perspectives. There is a certainly a useful life lesson to take from the way in which she constructs the story in an unbiased way, exposing from different angles repeatedly one pivotal event which affects the lives of both families forever. In this way Keane has constructed both a story and characters who are very human - I wouldn't say this book is particularly dramatic, but it does evoke emotions which feel very raw to experience as a reader. 

If anything, my only criticism of this book is just that - it's a little too human. I mean this in the sense that after that one dramatic event, the rest of the story seems to dwindle. There is no climax at the end of this book. I found the last 20% of the novel a little boring and undramatic - which is probably a very realistic portrayal of what life is like, but for me, doesn't make for the most exciting reading. Maybe that is just me - I had a very similar sensation whilst reading Little Fires Everywhere, which has been likened to this book by so many readers. If those kind of books are your thing, you will definitely enjoy this one. If you're not a fan of heavily character-driven novels lacking in a little plot, I would avoid. 

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.