Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is a most wonderful novel. We begin in 1973 when we meet Francis Gleeson, newly arrived from Ireland, and Brian Stanhope, Irish American, both rookie cops in New York. They become friends, marry at much the same time and move to the suburbs, next door to each other.
Francis and Lena have three daughters, Brain and Anne a son, Peter, the same age as the youngest girl next door, Kate. Kate and Peter are best friends throughout their childhood – until a tragedy affecting both families causes a separation.
But Peter never forgets Kate, and she never forgets Peter. It is many years before they brave the disapproval of their families and re-unite. Against all odds their love for each other has survived.
This book has been selected by an American television celebrity as the book to read this summer and I suspect there has been a lot said and written that reveals more than I want to – as I found such pleasure in the fact that no matter how predictable this novel could have been, it is not.
It is a very well written and utterly absorbing story about a couple, their parents and the affect of the childhood tragedy on all of those involved. It is about marriage, loyalty and love between husband and wife, children and parents. It is about imagining “the happy ending that can come out of a terrible thing”.
One night, lying in bed, talking about the past Peter and Kate, realize, “They’d both learned that a memory is a fact that’s been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in the room”.
This is a story about forgiveness – letting go of the past, and making a life regardless of the damage done. That by confronting the past, and present day problems, one can move on, changed and capable of, if not complete forgiveness, at least an understanding so that the damage done can be accommodated. It is also about following your heart and knowing what is right for you, and sticking with it. Having witnessed a long and mostly happy marriage, with good parents, it is Kate who is most determined to make Peter happy – a man who has been left too often, to understand, at his lowest, that it is Kate who will make him whole, and Kate who will help him reconcile the past and the present.
Ask Again, Yes is a novel you will not want to put down – you may see yourself, and your family in some of the characters – and you will certainly finish reading this book ready to pass it on to a friend or daughter.