A quiet town in upstate New York seems to offer everything to young couples seeking to leave their cramped living conditions in Brooklyn or Queens and bring up a family. The Gleesons and the Stanhopes buy houses next door to each other, and although the grown-ups keep their distance, their children—Kate, the youngest Gleeson, and Peter, the only Stanhope child—are the best of friends, until the terrible day a gun is fired and everything changes. An immersive read about family secrets and redemption.
It is this terrible act that prises Peter apart from his beloved Kate. Later they find one another and then marry, despite parental opposition. But there are still over a hundred pages to go once their union has taken place, and it is in this final part of the book that Keane shows herself to be a writer of unusual depth. Ask Again, Yes is a story with real heart – moving and subtle and often very touching.
A candidate for one of my best books of the year. I savoured every word of this eloquent, lyrical novel, which explores how the secrets that families carry can affect future generations. Set in New York, the book spans the lives of Kate and Pete from the 1970s to the present day. I was swept up in the drama.
Imogen and Lily are old friends who shared everything, but when they both move to the same area and the local 'outstanding' school only has one place, what lengths will they go to for their children? From fake marriage break-ups to moving house and 'getting in' with the vicar, it's a frank and funny account that'll resonate with many parents. Prepare to laugh and cringe in equal measure.
Ask Again, Yes is a novel of great compassion and understanding. It concerns itself with forgiveness for, in accepting Peter and Kate’s relationship, both houses must overcome the past. If there is a flaw in the writing, however, it is perhaps that the novel feels overlong, with scenes occasionally overstaying their welcome. One feels great empathy towards Peter but there are moments when his saintliness becomes a little too emphatic. When he briefly turns to drink, I want to buy him a keg, just to lighten him up. His kindness, his devotion to Kate, his lack of interest in sex and his put-upon nature eventually begin to draw on the reader and perhaps with a little more edge to his character, he would feel more authentic as well as sympathetic.
There seems to be a trend for novels that champion the steady resilience of ordinary people as they weather life’s ups and downs — Ann Patchett explores similar territory in her upcoming novel, The Dutch House. But there is an edge to a Patchett novel, a tremulous and sometimes thrilling intimacy with the characters that is less pronounced here. Having said this, Keane is a nuanced observer, and pleasantly accessible. Book clubs across the country will, happily, have plenty to discuss.