Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Once again, Book of the Month has been on fire with their monthly choices. Bookstagram has been blowing up over Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane and I had been eyeing it up for weeks. When it was posted as one of the June BOTM choices, there was no thinking to be done, I added it to my box immediately. I am a huge fan of literary fiction and have been on a kick lately with the genre. I love a book that makes me think and provides discussion topics. Multiple people can read the same book, but come away with different takeaways, which is one of the fun part about reading and discussing.
Ask Again, Yes is a family saga about two neighboring suburban families, the Gleesons and the Stanhopes, whose children, Peter and Kate, form an unbreakable bond. One evening, a tragedy occurs between the two families and it sets them all on a different trajectory. It is an intimate family drama that takes course over multiple decades and covers a variety of thought provoking topics, such as mental illness, neglect, alcoholism, infidelity, and social pressures. I felt like this story touched on so many hot topics, but in such an eloquent way.
Trigger alert: If you are sensitive to mental illness discussions and alcoholism and its affect on families, this may be triggering, but I found the writing to be extremely tasteful for both topics.
Peter and Kate share a bond that began when they were both young toddlers. They lived side by side in a cookie cutter suburban neighborhood, playing together every chance they had, riding the bus together, and seeing each other at school. They were inseparable. Each of their father's worked for the New York Police Department, formerly were partners, but since then have grown distant. The tragic event that occurs involves both families and sets Peter and Kate's relationship on a different path.
I do not want to give away spoilers because I know many people that are highly anticipating this book. I will say that the overall message that I took away from it was how we will all have major life events that could impact our lives in a negative way at the time, but do not have to define us. (If you have read this, I would LOVE to discuss in more detail.) The major event pushes both families apart, therefore forcing Peter and Kate apart. It changes both of their lives immensely, but at the end of the day, it was one bad day in all the years of their lives, and it could define them if they allowed it.
Ask Again, Yes also brought to light many sensitive topics that I feel more people experience in their lives than we tend to assume. I recently had a girl's weekend with some of my closest friends. We all met in college and make it a point to get together atleast one weekend out of every year. It is something we have been doing on a consistent basis for over three years and we all look forward to it. Last night, while we sat around the fire chatting about life, the topic of alcoholism came up. I tend to hole up in my mind and think I am the only one who thinks or feels a certain way, therefore when I think about past life events, I assume I am the only one who experienced something like that. It was so eye opening to hear everyone's stories about how alcohol has affected their lives. I felt like all of the topics Mary Beth Keane discussed in Ask Again, Yes are topics that have touched or affected almost all of us in some way or another. They are all extremely relevant and need to be openly discussed. A book like this reminds you that you are not alone with your thoughts and experiences and as much as you want to discuss them and move on from them, so do other people. Being open to discussing them with others, especially those you are close with and feel safe around, is a great way to heal the wounds and move past them.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. I gave it ★★★★.5 and found it incredibly thought provoking, tragic, and empowering. The ending wrapped up the story of the Gleesons and the Stanhopes perfectly and I felt compassion emanating from Keane's writing. I highly recommend this one if you are a fan of books that touch on heavier topics, but leave you thinking about things that are much bigger than yourself.