The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be gripping family drama, Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane. It was released on 8 August and Mary Beth will be on the show on Monday 2 September.
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Ask Again, Yes
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 up 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.
Selection panel review
The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved Ask Again, Yes – here are some of their comments:
“I loved reading this book because it is so well written. The suspense kept building and you were never quite sure where the plot was going next. The characters were described to an extent where you felt as though you knew them. Both families were very believable. There were various themes running through the book such as love, friendship and forgiveness. I feel that this is a good book for a discussion because everyone will have a different perspective on the tragedy that occurs.”
“The setting in and around New York, from the seventies onwards, is well done. I felt very involved with Kate and Peter, and the twists and turns of their lives, together and apart, wishing for things to come right for them. The characters generally are beautifully drawn, their actions and motives ringing true, their dialogue real. Some stand out, like Peter’s lovable Uncle George, stepping up and muddling through. Family is an important theme. Everything changes from the day Kate and Peter are forced apart, and the book traces what led up to that day as well as what results from it. It’s a wonderful story of people trying to do their best and a lot of the time not knowing what they are doing. Life sweeping people past pivotal moments. Trying to find their way through circumstances beyond their control. Trying to find themselves.”
About the author
Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35,’ and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. 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.
A word from Mary Beth
“I’m at a loss to describe what a thrill it is to have Ask Again, Yes chosen for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club, and to know readers are identifying with these characters, even from across the pond. Just as readers feel a kinship with other readers no matter where they are, I like to think of libraries as portals to understanding one another, even from far away. I just about grew up in our local library, a place of total freedom to me (despite the rules about keeping quiet). I could pick whatever book I wanted, and I could come to whatever opinion I wanted about the selections I made. Even now, when I walk into any library, in any city, I feel immediately at home.
I’m absolutely honoured that Ask Again, Yes has been chosen by such accomplished readers, those who truly believer in the power of a good book.”
Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 2 September to hear a live interview with Mary Beth.
Have you read Ask Again, Yes? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #AskAgainYes, and you can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list.
Want to know more? Follow Mary Beth on Twitter.
Planning to buy Ask Again, Yes for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.