Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane: Audiobook Review

Immerse yourself in the interwoven stories of two families in this intricately told, engrossing tale of two NYPD cops and the very different lives they lead.

Ask Again, Yes was written by Mary Beth Keane and narrated by Molly Pope.

As a domestic fiction, Ask Again, Yes takes its reader/listener through the joy and tragedy of family life. Amidst the heartbreak, betrayal, and devastation, Keane’s novel manages to affirm life and therefore encourages us to embrace happiness.

Anyone who enjoys a family saga that depicts multiple generations as they come-of-age will enjoy Ask Again, Yes.

Content & Storytelling

Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes is a moving family saga. Set in and around New York City from the mid-1970s to the present time, Keane’s novel follows the lives of two New York cops and their families. Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are NYPD rookies together and their lives progress along similar trajectories, for a time. While the men aren’t close friends, they end up as neighbors in a quiet, family-friendly suburb that couldn’t be more different than their Bronx precinct. Brian’s only child, Peter, is the best friend of Francis’s third daughter, Kate, until the unthinkable occurs and their lives change forever.

The Gleeson and the Stanhope families share certain attributes: Francis’s Irish brogue reflects that of Brian’s Irish wife, Anne; both dads are cops; Peter and Kate attend the same parochial school. And yet, it is clear that the Stanhope home is not a happy one. Something looms in Peter’s boyhood home that starkly contrasts that of the Gleeson’s happy family life. As Kate and Peter conclude eighth grade, this fact boils over and their childhood world falls apart.

Ask Again, Yes is a story about family, resilience, forgiveness and personal transformation. It incorporates diverse and quintessentially human themes like parenting, mental illness, alcoholism, and marriage. Keane beautifully populates her novel with dynamic individuals who struggle through life, honor, love, and to find empathy for one another. As the title suggests, Ask Again, Yes is certainly an affirmation of life, albeit one rooted in tragic details and harsh realities.

Length & Pacing

This novel grabbed my attention quickly and held it until the final “yes” of its conclusion. By jumping between character’s perspectives and moving swiftly through the years, Ask Again, Yes brilliantly entwines the lives of its protagonists.

Writing & Narration

Molly Pope’s narration successfully captures the beauty and craft of Keane’s novel. Pope captures Francis’s and Anne’s Irish accents even as they mellow with the years, while she also portrays Peter and Kate’s voices from adolescence to middle-age. Keane crafts her novel by weaving the lives of its various characters throughout, and by shifting her third-person narrator’s gaze from one characters’ inner life to another’s. Since a family’s story can’t be known from one member’s experience, Ask Again, Yes entwines the private lives of family members, would-be enemies, and lovers.

Overall

While there are plenty of NYPD who populate this novel, it is not exclusively a cop book; it is the story of family, a story that can take many forms but one that is ultimately punctuated with love. In the end, Keane’s story articulates that coming-of-age is a lifelong process.


Official Description: 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.

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