A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy
Gilliam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhope as their new neighbours.
Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.
It’s left to their children -Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.
A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later …
A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.
A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.
This isn’t my usual type of read but I had seen a lot written about how good this was so thought I would give it ago. The story is spread out over a 40 year’s from when Francis Gleeson and Bryan Stanhope both meet each other working for the NYPD, both new on the job they are partnered together. Time then seems to move on a bit and Francis and his wife Lena move to a quiet area outside NYC called Gillam, where they start a family. Then by chance Brian and his wife Anne end up living next door. It had been Brian who had initially said about the area, telling Frances that a lot of police officers lived in the area as it was within commuting distance for NYC. Lena at this stage has two children and tries to approach Anne to become friends but from the beginning Anne is aloof. She had lost a couple of children but eventually had a son called Peter a few months before Lena’s youngest daughter Kate is born.
Peter and Kate are childhood friends despite Anne’s absolute disapproval then when they start to reach the teenage years and their friendship seems as if it is turning into something more romantic. Anne becomes more and more disapproving. Brian and Peter ignore Anne’s strange behaviour despite it being so obvious that their is something really not right there. Why didn’t Brian do anything? Why does he ignore the behaviour she is showing? Constant snide comments and her shutting herself away in her room sometimes for days. Even her behaviour with Peter is strained but as a child growing up he is not really aware as to how a parent should be.
It’s only when tragedy strikes that drives the Stanhopes to move away from Gillam and destroys any relationship between Peter and Kate and within each family. Both sides have to somehow pick up the pieces and move on in their own ways. Some choose to runaway some choose to stay.
Peter and Kate throughout the book never forget each other, always remembering the bond they had with each other. Wondering where the other one is. Is there a chance that years later they will be able to renew the friendship they once had despite what happened. If they do how will their families react to this? Was the damage too much to let that happen, or will it drive a wedge between the young people and their families. Time is supposed to be a healer. But can time mend what happened.
I found the years going by and parts of the book just didn’t work for me personally as there would at times be huge jumps. Some of Kate’s life it was just like she was going through the motions, after Peter and his family left. She tended to pretend things were ok when really things weren’t but I think she felt the family had been through enough and she just wanted them to believe she was happy and she had friends.
It’s a story of how one incident can change lives forever. It covers many themes which can affect any family at anytime things like addiction, mental health, challenges faced when growing up, love, relationships, falling from grace, redemption, forgiveness and fresh starts. How we see things as a child and then see them completely differently as an adult. How one event can change lives forever.
The story is well plotted and written with lots of emotion, it is told through the various characters so giving the different perspectives. I prefer to read a book with a faster pace but that’s just my personal preference. You are compelled to keep going with this to see how it ends.
If you like a family drama then this is definitely a story you will enjoy.
I would like to thank netgalley and Michael Joseph for an ARC of this book all views and opinions are my own and unbiased.
Mary Beth Keane attendee Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. 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.