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.
Author: Mary Beth Keane | Publisher: Scribner
Thank you so very much to NetGalley and Scribner for giving me an advanced reading copy of this book for review! It will be published May 28th.
There are stories, and then there are stories. This is a rich, delicious novel that makes you forget there’s an outside world. There’s only this handful of characters and the love and heartbreak between them.
The two main characters are Kate — the youngest of three daughters to Francis and Lena — and Peter, the only son of Brian and Anne. But the narrative starts with Francis’ perspective as a young police officer in the Bronx. He yearns for the suburbs, an escape from the stress and violence of his job and a return to a world sort of like his childhood in Ireland. Lena never wanted to leave NYC, but she can see it’s important to him. Still, she’s lonely. Then Brian — Francis’ partner but not quite friend — and Anne move in next door. Lena tries to make friends with Anne, but Anne will strangely have none of it.
So Kate and Peter grow up next to each other, and from the very beginning, they know intuitively that their souls are entwined. And yet their parents’ chilly animosity to one another won’t let them just be. When they’re about 14, they’re torn apart by a terrifying, violent night that will impact every day of the rest of their lives. But years later, they reconnect, and then their own relationship becomes the forefront of the story. But it’s not simple, and it’s not easy — the scars our childhoods leave behind never are.
Rather than switching POVs between chapters, the narrative weaves between the characters’ points of view seamlessly from one sentence to the next. When they’re young, most is from Peter; when they’re adults, most is from Kate. And a bit is from each of their parents, too.
The story has really strong themes of love, childhood trauma, mental health, the danger of pretending to the world that everything is fine at home when it’s not. Also addiction, the repetition of parents’ mistakes, and acceptance. So much to pack into a relatively short novel, but wow, was it beautiful and heartbreaking and just meant to exist.