A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.
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.
“I devoured this astonishing tale of two families linked by chance, love, and tragedy. Mary Beth Keane gives us characters so complex and alive that I find myself still thinking of them days after turning the final page. A must-read.” —J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions
“Mary Beth Keane is at the height of her powers in this novel about the sacrifices we make when we choose to build a life with someone. In Ask Again, Yes Keane tells a story about the fragility of happiness, the violence lurking beneath everyday life, and, ultimately, the power of love. If you’ve ever loved someone beyond reason, you will love this wise, tender, and beautiful book.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
About the Author
Mary Beth Keane was born in the Bronx to Irish parents and grew up in Rockland County, New York. She attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA in Fiction. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35,” and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People, Fever, and Ask Again, Yes.
“Mary Beth Keane takes on one of the most difficult problems in fiction—how to write about human decency. In Ask Again, Yes, Keane creates a layered emotional truth that makes a compelling case for compassion over blame, understanding over grudge, and the resilience of hearts that can accept the contradictions of love.” — Louise Erdrich, author of The Round House
“Ask Again, Yes is a powerful and moving novel of family, trauma, and the defining moments in people’s lives. Mary Beth Keane is a writer of extraordinary depth, feeling and wit. Readers will love this book, as I did.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion
“Mary Beth Keane looks past the veneer that covers ordinary moments and into the very heart of real life. There’s a Tolstoyan gravity, insight, and moral heft in these pages, and Keane’s ability to plumb the depths of authentic feeling while avoiding sentimentality leaves one shaking one’s head in frank admiration. This wonderful book is so many things: a gripping family drama; a sensitive meditation on mental illness; a referendum on the power and cost of loyalty; a ripping yarn that takes us down into the depths and back up; in short, a triumph.” —Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves
"I devoured this astonishing tale of two families linked by chance, love, and tragedy. Mary Beth Keane gives us characters so complex and alive that I find myself still thinking of them days after turning the final page. A must-read." —J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions
“Keane's story embraces family lives in all their muted, ordinary, yet seismic shades… offers empathy and the long view… Tender and patient, the novel avoids excessive sweetness while planting itself deep in the soil of commitment and attachment. Graceful and mature. A solidly satisfying, immersive read.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Mary Beth Keane is at the height of her powers in this novel about the sacrifices we make when we choose to build a life with someone. In Ask Again Yes, Keane tells a story about the fragility of happiness, the violence lurking beneath everyday life, and, ultimately, the power of love. If you’ve ever loved someone beyond reason, you will love this wise, tender, and beautiful book.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
“Mary Beth Keane combines Joan Didion's exacting eye for detail with the emotional wallop of Alice McDermott. From the ache of first love to the recognition that the people closest to us are flawed and human, Ask Again, Yes is a moving testament to the necessary act of forgiveness. It is heartbreaking, hopeful, and honest.” —Brendan Mathews, author of The World of Tomorrow
“Thoughtful, compassionate… illustrates the mutability of memory and the softening effects of time… poignantly demonstrates how grace can emerge from forgiveness.” —Publishers Weekly