Welcome to my stop and the final day of the blog tour for this phenomenal novel. Thank you to Michael Joseph Books and Penguin Random House UK for the invitation to take part and for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
A gripping and compassionate drama about 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 almost be 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.
This evocative, poignant and breathtaking novel is one that will linger long after reading. The author explores topics such as mental illness, addiction and parental neglect in this story of two families, the Gleesons and the Stanhopes, that are both different yet similar to each other. It follows them from the mid-seventies until present day as they go through the usual ups and downs, alongside a devastating and unimaginable tragedy that encompasses them all.
I had been eagerly anticipating this book after seeing a lot of hype for it over the past few months, especially after it was chosen by viewers of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel as the summer read of 2019. The only problem with all that anticipation is the worry that it won’t live up to the hype, that you’ll be the black sheep who doesn’t love this book. But I needn’t have worried. Though it started slow, within the first 100 pages I had fallen under the spell of this book. The author writes with beautiful nuance, compassion, sensitivity, warmth and candor. Her characters and their experiences feel authentic. You can put yourself in their shoes or imagine them being the people next door to you. I was drawn into their world, invested in their lives, and needed to know what the outcome would be for them.
This author has a talent for writing honest, complex and damaged characters. They were all multilayered and could be both ugly and loveable, giving them a realism that helps connect them to the reader. You can hate a behaviour but have some empathy when you can understand how someone reaches a point where they make the wrong choices, even if that doesn’t mean you’re okay with that behaviour. That’s what happened again and again with these characters. It felt like real life, like dealing with people you know.
The story shifts its focus so that we get the perspective of almost all the members of the two families at various times, which enables us to get to the heart of these characters. A lot of the focus is on Kate and Peter so it is unsurprising that they were the characters I felt most invested in and the greatest empathy for, especially as they are so young when the tragedy occurs. Peter in particular was a character my heart ached for. He goes through so many terrible things that I wondered how he can survive it, but I also saw a resilience in him that told me he would. There are so many things I am longing to say about the other characters, especially Anne, but doing so would mean spoilers, and I don’t like to include those in my reviews, so I won’t say more about them. But if you’ve read this and want to talk, please DM me.
Ask Again,Yes is an extraordinary, riveting novel written with compassion, humanity and affection. It is a story of anger, bitterness, tragedy, love, hope and forgiveness. It is a melancholy yet heartwarming tale. It reminds us that ignorance doesn’t always mean bliss, that it can sometimes allow things to fester until they boil over and have far-reaching repercussions. But it also shows us that with understanding, empathy and love, fractured lives can be mended.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Everyone is talking about it, and for very good reason. You should pick it up as soon as possible.
Available now from your favourite bookseller.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.