A captivating story of two families, torn apart by tragedy and how this tragedy shaped their future. A story that touches on forgiveness and moving on. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. #fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

Ask Again, Yes

By Mary Beth Keane

Book Review:

One review I read on this book compared it to LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, a book I still can't stop thinking about. And even though I may not agree with that comparison, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. ASK AGAIN, YES looks at marriage and relationships. It explores, among other things, mental illness, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, and dealing with tragedy. It really stirs up your emotions.

I found myself angry one moment and sad the next. And, it wasn't just the tragedy that tugged at me, it was the aftermath, the lives changed forever. It was the sadness of knowing and realizing you can't go back. If you like literary fiction, stories with plenty of insight into the human condition and deeply flawed characters, this is a good fit.

Book Club Talking Points:

This hits all the right notes for book clubs. Fabulous complicated characters that develop slowly over time. Plenty of challenges: infidelity, abandonment, mental illness, dealing with tragedy, addiction, forbidden love. Recommend for clubs that like beautifully written literary fiction and family drama
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*Discussion Questions

1. Ask Again, Yes grapples with the idea of learning from the past. What lessons do Kate and Peter learn from their parents’ experiences? What mistakes did they repeat?

2. Do Francis Gleeson and Anne Stanhope—both Irish immigrants—experience things differently than their American-born spouses? Do you think this contributes to tensions within the couples, and between the two families?

3. Ask Again, Yes is set over the course of four decades. How do attitudes toward mental health and addiction change over that time? How do these changes affect the characters? For example, how do Brian and George Stanhope differ in their attitudes toward drinking?

4. Francis marvels at how many pieces had to come together for a woman like Lena to exist and for him to have met her (page 7). What role do you think fate plays in this novel? Do the characters have free will to make their own choices? Why or why not?

5. When Kate learns about the episode at Food King, she momentarily thinks that it couldn’t have been as dramatic as Peter was making it out to be. Then she realizes that it was, in fact, the opposite, “that it was such a big deal that the adults had been careful not to talk about it in front of the kids” (page 85). What role does keeping secrets—from children, parents, partners—play throughout the novel? Do you think certain events could have been avoided if the characters had been more open with each other?

6. The idea of inherited traits and characteristics appears frequently in the novel. Trauma is another thing that is passed down from generation to generation. Do Kate and Peter address the legacy of trauma they’ve inherited from their parents?

7. Redemption is an important theme throughout Ask Again, Yes. Discuss the many ways in which the characters forgive each other.

8. The novel is divided into four parts. Discuss the significance of each of the part titles—“Gillam,” “Queens,” “Two by Two,” and “Muster.” Why do you think Mary Beth Keane chose to structure the story this way?

9. At the end of the book, Francis thinks, “It was always the same. People didn’t change” (page 385). Do you think he really believes this?

10. What does the book’s title, Ask Again, Yes, mean to you?

11. This novel is specific to these two families, yet it also feels universal in its themes. Do you see echoes of your family’s history in the Gleesons or the Stanhopes??

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)

Book Summary
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens 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 explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, 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. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
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