Blog Tour Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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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.

SYNOPSIS:

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.

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MY REVIEW:

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.

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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.

My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.

Review: ‘The Queen of Hearts’ by Kimmery Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A debut novel set against the background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humour and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers – Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harbouring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the centre of Zadie’s life-both professionally and personally-throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

I loved this book so much that I could read it every single day and it would bring me joy. An intelligent, poetic, mesmerising and delightful book about humanity, agony, hope, love and friendship.

Zadie and Emma have been friends since being assigned as roommates at a camp for kids interested in medicine. They stayed in touch and have been best friends throughout college, medical school, marriage and children. They can talk about anything and everything, with one exception. In their third year of medical school something terrible happened that they have an unspoken agreement to never discuss. So when Emma texts Zadie saying she wants to talk about Nick, someone who is a part of what they don’t talk about, Zadie feels like the wind has been knocked out of her. Why now?

Set in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the present day with flashbacks to their third year at medical school in Louisville, Kentucky, the story is narrated by both main characters. Early on Zadie reveals she did something that lead to someone’s death that year and Emma tells us that she has never told her best friend the truth about what happened. As we discover more about Nick and what happened that year, secrets are revealed and their strong friendship is tested like never before. Can it survive a secret kept for almost two decades?

This spectacular debut novel was one I was highly anticipating reading. I love medical fiction, something that probably comes in part from having a Mum who’s a nurse and also because before I became too ill to work I spent many years working in doctors and dental surgeries. I will admit that I judged this book by its beautiful cover. I know we’re not supposed to do that but we all do it, am I right? Thankfully in this case it was justified and I fell in love instantly. It started with a great opening paragraph that instantly portrayed the deliciously lyrical and witty style of writing that had me savouring every word and completely immersed in the pages.

Zadie and Emma were great characters and I was completely invested in their friendship and rooting for them to survive the storms of this story. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from showing how flawed they were and instead made it into an example of how even the good among us can do wrong and cause pain and how every little decision can have often unforeseen and far-reaching consequences. In terms of secondary characters I have to mention little Delaney. That girl is a firecracker! She was so much  fun to read and I loved her precocious, fun character that shone through every time she was on the page.

Though most of this book is written in a lighthearted manner there were some gut-wrenching scenes. My heart was in my throat reading as Zadie lost her first patient and in other tragic moments, and I found myself blindsided and unable to stop reading as the long-held secrets were finally revealed.

Kimmery Martin has written a beautiful book that is a perfect amalgamation of her two loves: medicine and literature. Her extensive medical knowledge shines through and I loved reading the details of medical life and procedures and cracking up at some of the anecdotes of life as a  doctor and mother. The Queen of Hearts is expertly written and I can’t wait to read the author’s second book next year. I will be recommending this to everyone.

Thank you to Kimmery Martin for my signed copy of this novel.

Out now.