Just Get Her Some Potato Salad and Nobody Gets Hurt: Ask Again, Yes

Originally published August 2019

Listen, I’m not making excuses for Anne Stanhope, but I can appreciate getting ragey in the deli line.

All kidding aside, “Ask Again, Yes” by Mary Beth Keane is an incredibly engrossing read and honestly, makes me wonder if it’s one of the better portrayals of a person dealing with psychosis that I’ve read in a long time, if not ever.

Because I don’t suffer from it, it’s hard to say how accurate Keane’s portrayal of Anne is, BUT — I do get anxiety. And I do get feeling like the world is conspiring against you. And over the course of this family drama, it’s hard not to empathize with her character’s plight. (Especially given her childhood. Yikes.)

And Anne’s is just but one of several plot lines neatly intertwined in this summer bestseller — a tale of two families living on the outskirts of New York City, and spread over the course of several decades, beginning in the late 60s and reaching near present day. The Gleesons and the Stanhopes aren’t just neighbors. Francis and Brian are NYPD. Francis’ wife Lena is doing her best to make friends with Brian’s wife Anne, to no avail. And the Gleesons’ youngest daughter, Kate is best friends with the Stanhopes’ only child, Peter.

As Anne’s descent into madness reaches a fever pitch, lives are altered forever. But readers realize early on, there’s no obstacle that is going to keep Kate and Peter apart. And wrapped around that plot line is what really is the central nervous system of their story — that of the relationships between fathers and daughters and mothers and sons.

It’s also a story about love and redemption — Francis’ with Lena and Peter’s with Kate. There are parallels between these two relationships, as Lena devotes herself to Francis’ health and Francis is then required to make amends, and Kate supports Peter in ways you wouldn’t expect, given her character’s strength, for which then Peter has to make it right. Does Kate stay with Peter because Lena stayed with Francis? Did watching how much her mother did (and did not do) for her father color her expectations of marriage?

Like most books I love, once I got going I could not put this down (hence the late night review) — the pace is not so fast you can’t keep up, but I also never found myself skimming to get ahead. I didn’t want to miss a single angst-ridden detail. The killer for me was the scene between Francis and Anne toward the end that … just …. my soul. Highly recommended on my part — I miss these characters already.

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