Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (NetGalley Review)

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Publisher: Scribner (May 28, 2019)
Description from the publisher:

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on 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 stunning events to come.
Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.
But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

I have stopped and started this review so many times over the last week! It’s hard to review a book I loved, to articulate what gives it that something that just resonates - much harder than reviewing one I disliked. I love a dysfunctional family drama, one that spans decades, one that has multiple narrators, and a gut punch ending. Ask Again, Yes checks all of these boxes and that 'something more' quality which keeps a book on my mind long after I've finished turning the pages. 
I think that what I found unique was the author's ability to take a narrative full of high drama (secret love, a gruesome shooting, a character sent to an asylum and more) and give it a nuanced, introspective tone that was so compelling. Normally I do not gravitate towards books that are heavy on characters inner lives and short on dialogue, but not in this case. It is such a quietly told, yet riveting story. Keane writes evocatively of each character's stage in life and I completely understood and empathized with their choices and emotions - especially Kate as she transforms from the stubborn little girl to the headstrong young woman, and eventually, the strong willed mother trying to keep her family together. And that's the crux of this story, that from one vantage point in your life you can see things in a completely different way than another: childhood versus adulthood, being a child versus being a parent, witnessing depression versus being caught in it's cross hairs. Every single character in this book can be considered villainous and also heroic at various points in the story. It's beautifully told, how none of us can be entirely one or the other, how humanity is fallible and also worthy of love. 
"...their worry for Peter, the person they each loved most, bound them, put them in the same boat together, and they could either row hard as one or else drift while he drowned nearby."
The title of this book is such perfection and I would so love to share the titular quote, but it would give too much away and I think it's so impactful after coming all this way with these characters. I will think on it often, how I wouldn't change a thing and think 'YES' to all the messiness that life throws our way.
Many, many thanks to Scribner books and Netgalley for a complimentary advance copy for review!


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