Book Review: ASK AGAIN, YES, after unthinkable violence, can a family forgive?

Ask Again, Yes
Mary Beth Keane

The Gleesons and Stanhopes lived next door to each other in the small town Gillam, outside New York City where Brian and Francis were both police officers. Though the men briefly were partners, their paths diverged, and living on the same street didn’t bring them closer together. Lena, Francis’s wife, lonely outside of the city and away from her friends and family, unsuccessfully tried to befriend Brian’s wife, Anne. But, Gleeson’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Stanhope’s only son, Peter, were born six months apart and became the best of friends, as close as siblings, until their teenage hormones shifted their relationship.

The families lived in a precarious balance until Kate and Peter became eighth graders. That year, tensions flared until an unimaginable act of violence tore the two families apart and shifted the relationships within each family forever. The Stanhopes left Gillam, and the families and individual family members tried to heal, making mistakes along the way, but the events of the fateful night were a fulcrum against which they all pivoted. Even as Kate and Peter found each other again, the ghosts of the past threatened them and their loved ones unless they could find the strength to forgive.

Overall, I enjoyed Ask Again, Yes. The story captivated my attention and I thought the language was lovely. Some of the characters, too, particularly stood out as unusual–Anne–or lovable–George, Brian’s brother. Francis’s journey, too, was a valuable window into his situation. Despite the dark turns the novel takes, it ultimately promotes a message of forgiveness and compassion.

Some things I liked less about the novel included reliance on what I think are overdone conflicts, for example alcoholism and infidelity, though they are perhaps overdone because so common and then deserve attention. The novel shifted perspective among characters, sometimes leaping forward in time, and while I don’t mind that in general, at times in this novel it felt a little jerky. Kate, who is a spitfire as a child, becomes rather passive as she becomes an adult, perhaps because of her circumstances, but it’s a shame she lost her moxy. Finally, the tone of the novel was one of reporting which served a bit to distance me from the emotions of the characters.

Ask Again, Yes should appeal to readers who like contemporary fiction in general or who enjoy family dramas and coming of age novels, and I would encourage those in these categories to read it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for providing an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review.