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Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Literary fiction

Ask Again, Yes

by Mary Beth Keane

Excellent choice

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Quick take

You'll get wrecked (and put back together).

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Police

    Police

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SuburbanDrama

    Suburban drama

Synopsis

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 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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Ask Again, Yes.
Ask Again, Yes

Prologue

July 1973

Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman’s uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct. A pair of pantyhose had been hung to dry on a fourth floor fire escape near 167th, and while he waited for another rookie, a cop named Stanhope, Francis noted the perfect stillness of those gossamer legs, the delicate curve where the heel was meant to be. Another building had burned the night before and Francis figured it was now like so many others in the Four-One: nothing left but a hollowed-out shell and a blackened staircase within. The neighborhood kids had all watched it burn from the roofs and fire escapes where they’d dragged their mattresses on that first truly hot day in June. Now, from a block away, Francis could hear them begging the firemen to leave just one hydrant open. He could imagine them hopping back and forth as the pavement grew hot again under their feet.

He looked at his watch and back at the station house door and wondered where Stanhope could be.

Eighty-eight degrees already and not even ten o’clock in the morning. This was the great shock of America, winters that would cut the face off a person, summers that were as thick and as soggy as bogs. “You whine like a narrowback,” his uncle Patsy had said to him that morning. “The heat, the heat, the heat.” But Patsy pulled pints inside a cool pub all day. Francis would be walking a beat, dark rings under his arms within fifteen minutes.

“Where’s Stanhope?” Francis asked a pair of fellow rookies also heading out for patrol.

“Trouble with his locker, I think,” one said back.

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Why I love it

As a big-hearted, sensitive, and voracious bookworm, I rate books on the way they make me feel and the impression they will leave on my heart. Full of lovely and intimate revelations, Ask Again, Yes left me feeling exposed and crushed, in the best way possible.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are NYPD cops, who by chance end up living next door to each other in the same New York City suburb. Despite their working relationship, their wives don’t share the same casual rapport; especially since Brian’s wife (Anne), is a tempestuous woman who trusts no one. Still, there’s no bad blood between the families—at least not until one summer night when a shocking act of violence upends all their lives forever.

After 40 years of following the Stanhopes and the Gleesons (in one luxurious afternoon of reading), these characters had taken up residence in my heart. I knew their vulnerabilities and demons as if they were members of my own family. Not just a literary novel, this book is a staggeringly raw portrayal of mental illness, addiction, and the ties that bind us. I hope you adore it as much as I did.

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Member ratings (11,881)

  • Lauren J.

    Richmond, VA

    This was such a sprawling, beautifully thought-provoking story. It wasn’t at all what the publisher’s blurbs made it sound like, which was fine by me. I’ll be thinking about these families for awhile.

  • Tera S.

    Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

    A thought-provoking book with interesting plot twists...I found myself asking, “What would YOU do if you were that character in that exact moment?” And quite often, I just wasn’t sure...A great read!

  • Caroline G.

    Starkville, MS

    Perhaps my favorite of the summer. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. You’ll find yourself somewhere in this story, along with empathy for those you already love & those you don’t understand.

  • Mary S.

    Orange Beach, AL

    This book is going to stay with me for a while. It’s a story of forgiveness, family, friendship and most importantly, the power of love. The characters are complex, wounded and strong. I can’t wait to

  • Sarah A.

    Durham, NC

    This book was slow to start but once I really started I couldn’t put it down! It centers around two generations of two families and it’s a traditional love story as much as it is a family love story.

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