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Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane
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Ask Again, Yes: A Novel (2019)

by Mary Beth Keane

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This is the story of intent and forgiveness, examined through the lives of two neighboring families, the Stanhopes and the Gleesons, that are connected more than geographically. Keane writes her characters precisely; they breathe off the page with truth and pain, complete with dignity and foibles all around. I also appreciated the way she told the third part of the story; it was written in a way that I hadn't really seen before. Minus one star for the length of the book (I think it could have been 100 pages shorter actually). Wait until the end when the meaning of the title is revealed, and yes, it was worth it. ( )
1 vote Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
4.5 Stars. I was fully invested in these characters the whole time. I am still thinking about them and wanting more so I know this was a good book. To me this book represents life, the relationship with Kate and Peter showed the most changes, growth, for good and for the challenging parts. Peter's character was one that stuck out to me the most, and how life was not handed to him, but there were successes. I liked how much character development there was in numerous characters. To me the ending was the authors choice to end the book and I fully support it. No spoilers, I am sure others wanted the ending to be different, but the last few pages will stick with me. Overall this is a book that made me think about how throughout all the ups and downs, people can still be grateful for how lucky they had been in life even if lucky isn't the same for all. ( )
  clp412 | Jul 10, 2019 |
ASK AGAIN, YES follows two families, the Stanhopes and Gleesons, who are entangled in various ways over four decades (1970s-2010s). Brian Stanhope and Francis Gleeson meet as rookie cops in the Bronx in 1973; they wind up as neighbors in the town of Gillam, but as Lena Gleeson gives birth to three baby girls, Anne Stanhope suffers a stillbirth before giving birth to Peter. Peter and the youngest Gleeson daughter, Kate, grow up together, and are close friends through eighth grade, when a tragic event rips them away from each other, and tears Peter's family apart. Peter and Kate reconnect during college, to the dismay of both their families, but they marry and start a family of their own. But Anne's mental illness and, later, Peter's alcoholism, continue to take their toll on both families.

The title is drawn from a conversation between Kate and Peter, late in the book. If he were to ask her to marry him again, knowing everything they know now, would she say yes?

Quotes

There was no predicting where life would go. There was no real way for a person to try something out, see if he liked it...because you try it and try it and try it a little longer and next thing it's who you are. (Francis, 10)

It was a tragedy, clearly, from her view, that she'd left one life and ended up in another. A path had diverged in a wood and she chose the one she'd regret forever. (Anne and Peter, 38)

The quiet of the house....was, Peter imagined, more like the held-breath interlude between when a button gets pushed and the bomb either detonates or is defused. (39)

[Speaking] was pointless anyway - all the blah-blah-blabbing and, still, no one understood each other. (Anne, 57)

He knew it didn't quite have anything to do with him, but some days, often when he least expected it, he removed his sympathy from her and took it back to wrap around himself. (Peter, 151)

One thing leads to another which leads to another, yes, but who could have predicted that last fallen domino would skid so far from the neatly toppled row? (Peter, 244)

"Marriage is long. All the seams get tested." (Francis to Kate, 257)

She'd learned that the beginning of one's life mattered the most, that life was top-heavy in that way. (Anne, 267)

Kate knew Peter better than anyone else in the world, but there was one person who knew him first. (298)

"We repeat what we don't repair." (Dr. Abbasi to Anne, 325)

...life changes and people change. As long as we change together, we're okay. (364) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 8, 2019 |
The Stanhopes and Gleesons are suburban next door neighbors and both husbands are NYC police officers. They have little else in common in the beginning of the story. As years go by the Stanhopes have one son, Peter and the Gleesons have three daughters. The youngest daughter, Kate, and Peter are best friends from an early age.

A tragedy occurs one night that tears apart both families and leaves their lives changed. Ask Again, Yes follows the Gleesons and Stanhopes for the next thirty years.

I'm at a loss as to whether or not I'd recommend Ask Again, Yes to others. But I loved every quiet minute of my reading. This is a drama of a normal family. Their love, loss, troubles are so beautifully presented. The book is moving, emotional and well written. If you're looking for extremes this is not the book. If you're looking for extraordinary normalcy, do read it. ( )
  Nancyjcbs | Jul 6, 2019 |
Even the most normal families are complicated. There are always issues between siblings, parents, and all those skeletons in the closet. Now imagine if you throw in another family, mental illness, alcoholism, and violence and you've got the potential for a fabulous story. Mary Beth Keane has written a novel that spans multiple generations of two families, whose lives are intertwined by a tragic act of violence, and weaves a beautiful story about family, love, and forgiveness.

This would be a fantastic selection for a book club! ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 29, 2019 |
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For Owen and Emmett
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Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman's uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct.
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"You can't reason with a person who won't be reasoned with," Brian said quietly.
They both learned that a memory is a fact that has been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in that room, anyone else who was standing on the grass beneath that telephone pole.
"We repeat what we don't repair,"...
He'd been looking at her face for so long that sometimes he forgot to notice it.
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"A family saga about two Irish American families in a New York suburb, the love between two of their children, and the tragedies that threaten to tear them apart and destroy their futures"--

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