Book: Ask Again, Yes
Author: Mary Beth Keane
Genre: Coming-of-age fiction
Who should read this book: fans of character driven stories and family sagas
Ask Again, Yes is a family saga. It starts with Brian Stanhope and Francis Gleeson meeting on the job as rookie cops. Eventually they both marry and have kids and their children continue the narrative all the way to Francis and Brian becoming grandparents. The most important character in this book in my opinion is Anne. She is the wife of Brian Stanhope and she suffers from depression and other mental illness. The story is centered around her and how everyone, husband, kids, neighbours, orbit around Anne’s illness. This book was a really well done representation of dealing with mental health, or not dealing with it and dealing with the consequences.
Writing 3/3 points: I enjoyed the writing style Keane had. The characters were well portrayed and there was not a lot of description, which I liked because it kept my focus rooted on the characters. I don’t usually pay much attention to character vs. plot driven story. But this book was one that I really noticed the characters were in charge and they moved the story along. There would be whole sections of time that disappeared from the narrative because it didn’t matter, nothing of interest happened to that character in that time period, so we just skip ahead to the next baby or whatever. At first, while reading it, I didn’t like that chunks of time were missing, but I realized it kept the story moving and kept me interested in the drama of these lives.
Hook 2/2 points: Anne isn’t introduced at the very beginning, but when she is, I was immediately sure she was a vital character. When she meets Lena, Francis’ wife, she is a little cold and closed off. The next time, she’s quite rude. Soon she has her first episode, an anxiety attack in the grocery store where she lashes out at strangers. I’ve never had an anxiety attack in front of anyone but my husband, but I instantly connected with her. The story then continues with everyone around Anne navigating her mental illness.
Feeling 1/2: I wanted more Anne. The story is taken over by the kids and Kate and Peter become the central characters of the plot. Their story was sweet but it wasn’t what I wanted to know about. Every time Anne appeared I got excited, but it wasn’t enough. I did absolutely love the ending however.
Plot 2/3: This story is about family and forgiveness, it’s about not giving up on the people you love. It was a genuinely beautiful story and had many relatable struggles for many people. However, there was something lacking for me. Maybe it was that the story seemed so real, it could have been anyone. There was a lack of emotion that really threw me. Anne, when she was narrating, was numbed by pills a lot so I could understand why there wasn’t a lot of emotion from her. But thinking about it after, there wasn’t much emotion from the other characters either. It almost felt like everyone was just going through the motions of life, sure they felt things, but those things were never fully expressed. Maybe it’s because I’m such an emotional person, I felt like there wasn’t enough of that.
Overall, this was a great book, I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a family saga. I also feel like Keane did a nice job portraying Anne, dealing with severe depression and other mental health issues, and how the people around her would deal with that too.