Friday 23 August 2019

BLOG TOUR: Ask Again, Yes - Mary Beth Keane

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes 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.

What did I think?

The reputation of this book preceded it, so I didn't hesitate when offered a spot on the blog tour.  This is one of those books that you know is going to be special from the very first page; when Mary Beth Keane describes something as mundane as a pair of tights hanging on a washing line in such ethereal detail I knew I was holding a thing of beauty in my hands.  

Ask Again, Yes is a tale of two families.  Both of Irish descent, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope met each other as rookie cops in New York.  Years later, they meet as family men when Brian and Anne move next door to Francis and Lena.  Lena is a new mother when she welcomes Anne to the street, but the alarm bells go off straight away as something isn't quite right with Anne.  Despite Lena's attempts at friendship, Anne is aloof and frosty and she doesn't thaw as the years go by.  As the two families grow up together, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope become inseparable and, despite Anne's best efforts to separate them, the course of their life is written. 

This is such a beautifully written, completely engrossing book.  I think because we are introduced to Kate and Peter from birth, it feels like we are part of the family.  As things happen to shock and surprise us, it's very easy to see facts in black and white and condemn the perpetrator, but delving into the background reveals the full shocking story and my opinion definitely changed.

Such a multi-faceted story, Ask Again, Yes, is  both a moving family saga and a beautiful realistic love story.  For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and through all the ups and downs of life Ask Again, Yes reminds us that we wouldn't change a single thing and if we're asked again we would always say 'yes'.  If ever a book is going to be described as a work of art, this is it.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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