Two Irish families, living side by side in suburban New York, are tied by the similarities of their path into the neighborhood and by a tragic event of a single night that reverberates across multiple generations for decades. Mary Beth Keane paints a subtle portrait of families dealing with mental health issues and long-held secrets, and the desire for connection across those divides. The result is a deeply felt and immersive novel, one that ties you not only to the characters but ultimately to their lessons for life. Perfect for fans of Ann Patchett and Celeste Ng and one of my favorite reads this year.
June 2019 Indie Next List
“Ask Again, Yes is a compelling, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful novel. Mary Beth Keane is incredibly talented; she does not sugar coat, instead giving readers a compulsively readable family drama. I did not expect to become so completely engrossed in these characters’ stories — two families whose lives become inextricably linked by young love and personal tragedy. Their myriad mistakes and attempts to atone beautifully demonstrate the power and grace found in forgiveness.”
— Anderson McKean, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The Tonight Show Summer Reads Pick *
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by People, Vogue, Parade, NPR, and Elle
“One of the most unpretentiously profound books I’ve read in a long time…modestly magnificent.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“A beautiful novel, bursting at the seams with empathy.” –Elle
How much can a family forgive?
A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens 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 explosive events to come.
Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, 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. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
About the Author
Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. She has been named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35,” and was awarded a 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.
“One of the most unpretentiously profound books I've read in a long time… Keane writes with deep familiarity and precision about the lives of this particular generation… As a writer, Keane reminds me a lot of Ann Patchett: Both have the magical ability to seem to be telling ‘only’ a closely-observed domestic tale that transforms into something else deep and, yes, universal. In Keane's case, that ‘something else’ is a story about forgiveness and acceptance… modestly magnificent.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“A beautiful novel, bursting at the seams with empathy.” —Brianna Kovan, Elle
"Keane’s novel is a rare example of propulsive storytelling with profound insights about blame, forgiveness and abiding love.” --People Magazine
“A profound story... Keane’s gracefully restrained prose gives her characters dignity... shows how difficult forgiveness can be—and how it amounts to a kind of hard-won grace.” --Vogue
“Keane writes with acute sensitivity and her characters are consistently, authentically lived-in. . . . smartly told.” –Entertainment Weekly
"I devoured this astonishing tale of two families linked by chance, love, and tragedy. Mary Beth Keane gives us characters so complex and alive that I find myself still thinking of them days after turning the final page. A must-read." —J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions
“Mary Beth Keane takes on one of the most difficult problems in fiction—how to write about human decency. In Ask Again, Yes, Keane creates a layered emotional truth that makes a compelling case for compassion over blame, understanding over grudge, and the resilience of hearts that can accept the contradictions of love.” — Louise Erdrich, author of The Round House
“Ask Again, Yes is a powerful and moving novel of family, trauma, and the defining moments in people’s lives. Mary Beth Keane is a writer of extraordinary depth, feeling and wit. Readers will love this book, as I did.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion
“Mary Beth Keane looks past the veneer that covers ordinary moments and into the very heart of real life. There’s a Tolstoyan gravity, insight, and moral heft in these pages, and Keane’s ability to plumb the depths of authentic feeling while avoiding sentimentality leaves one shaking one’s head in frank admiration. This wonderful book is so many things: a gripping family drama; a sensitive meditation on mental illness; a referendum on the power and cost of loyalty; a ripping yarn that takes us down into the depths and back up; in short, a triumph.” —Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves
“Keane's story embraces family lives in all their muted, ordinary, yet seismic shades… offers empathy and the long view… Tender and patient, the novel avoids excessive sweetness while planting itself deep in the soil of commitment and attachment. Graceful and mature. A solidly satisfying, immersive read.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Thoughtful, compassionate… illustrates the mutability of memory and the softening effects of time… poignantly demonstrates how grace can emerge from forgiveness.” —Publishers Weekly
“Mary Beth Keane is at the height of her powers in this novel about the sacrifices we make when we choose to build a life with someone. In Ask Again Yes, Keane tells a story about the fragility of happiness, the violence lurking beneath everyday life, and, ultimately, the power of love. If you’ve ever loved someone beyond reason, you will love this wise, tender, and beautiful book.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
“Mary Beth Keane combines Joan Didion's exacting eye for detail with the emotional wallop of Alice McDermott. From the ache of first love to the recognition that the people closest to us are flawed and human, Ask Again, Yes is a moving testament to the necessary act of forgiveness. It is heartbreaking, hopeful, and honest.” —Brendan Mathews, author of The World of Tomorrow
"Beautifully observed. . . . Ask Again, Yes is a tale that will compel readers to think deeply about the ravages of unacknowledged mental illness, questions of family love and loyalty, and the arduous journey towards forgiveness.” --BookPage, starred review
"Stunning! An absolutely brilliant, gorgeously-written novel by a fearless writer. Ask Again, Yes is both haunting and hopeful, like life itself. It's the consummate epic family story, one I can't stop thinking and talking about. A must-read for our time." --Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women
"Her characters are flawed, thoughtful, hard-working people trying to make sense of ordinary and sometimes impossible events, and dealing with the ripple effects of the past on the present... a thought-provoking family drama and a testament to the power of forgiveness." --Shelf Awareness