A snapshot of modern American life. In Ask Again, Yes Mary Beth Keane spins a stunning story about a normal middle class family and how one person’s decision can change the lives of everyone around them. It was real and beautiful and heart breaking. I hated the ending but otherwise, 10/10.
A la Ann Patchett or Celest Ng, Keane has immortalized what life is like for many modern families. Except unlike Patchett or Ng, Keane does so successfully. With the other two it felt kinda pointless. Like, this is modern life, it sucks but there’s nothing we can do. Also everyone is a jerk. Keane, however, was able to convey life with all it’s challenges and heartbreak and struggles, but still show why it’s all worth it. And not in a glamorized, we found fame and fortune way, but in a beautiful and realistic way.
And I realllllllllly wanted things to work out for a certain two characters. I was very stressed about it. Let me tell you who those characters were.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two policemen, fresh out of the academy and working together to keep the streets of New York safe. Francis is from Ireland, he’s kinda quiet but also has a strength in him. His wife Lena is outspoken and capable. Brain on the other hand seems a bit flighty and less responsible. His wife is Anne isn’t very social and is very particular.
Eventually they move, next door to one another in the suburbs. They have kids, and those kids grow up together. But everything is not as it seems.
After tension among the adults builds like a volcano, it all comes to a head one fateful night. And a decision is made that changes everyone’s lives, for better or worse. But will they let this one event define them? Will their children let their parent’s decisions rip them apart?
Spoiler alert, I was talking about two of the kids. In a wild, heart wrenching story we learn about what love can, and can’t, do.
So now that you know I love the plot, let’s talk about some of the other elements. I loved half the characters and could appreciate the half I didn’t love. The language was compelling.
I should also mention that thematically, I thought Keane covered an interesting spread of topics. Love, in relation to friends and family and romantic love. Alcoholism and mental illness, abandonment and hope. By themselves, nothing too ground breaking. These are things all modern families deal with. It’s the way that Keane handles these issues that elevate her story. They create a senario that’s a little more extreme than the average person deals with but are still relatable.
As for things I didn’t love, there are a few. The time jumps were kinda odd. I understand why we needed to move the plot along at a quick pace but some of the jumps were jarring. Sometimes what Keane chose to highlight seemed strange. And I didn’t like the ending. Like, it was reflective of real life and appropriate for the story, but I didn’t like it.
What is it with me and my very particular standards for endings? I just want things to wrap up nicely. With answers and conclusions. Preferably with happiness. Is that too much to ask??
But I didn’t dislike it enough to deter me from recommending this! Keane did a great job and you should read this one ASAP.