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1. Ask Again, Yes grapples with the idea of learning from the past. What lessons do Kate and Peter learn from their parents’ experiences? What mistakes did they repeat?
2. Do Francis Gleeson and Anne Stanhope—both Irish immigrants—experience things differently than their American-born spouses? Do you think this contributes to tensions within the couples, and between the two families?
3. Ask Again, Yes is set over the course of four decades. How do attitudes toward mental health and addiction change over that time? How do these changes affect the characters? For example, how do Brian and George Stanhope differ in their attitudes toward drinking?
4. Francis marvels at how many pieces had to come together for a woman like Lena to exist and for him to have met her (page 7). What role do you think fate plays in this novel? Do the characters have free will to make their own choices? Why or why not?
5. When Kate learns about the episode at Food King, she momentarily thinks that it couldn’t have been as dramatic as Peter was making it out to be. Then she realizes that it was, in fact, the opposite, "that it was such a big deal that the adults had been careful not to talk about it in front of the kids" (page 85). What role does keeping secrets—from children, parents, partners—play throughout the novel? Do you think certain events could have been avoided if the characters had been more open with each other?
6. The idea of inherited traits and characteristics appears frequently in the novel. Trauma is another thing that is passed down from generation to generation. Do Kate and Peter address the legacy of trauma they’ve inherited from their parents?
7. Redemption is an important theme throughout Ask Again, Yes. Discuss the many ways in which the characters forgive each other.
8. The novel is divided into four parts. Discuss the significance of each of the part titles—"Gillam," "Queens," "Two by Two," and "Muster." Why do you think Mary Beth Keane chose to structure the story this way?
9. At the end of the book, Francis thinks, "It was always the same. People didn’t change" (page 385). Do you think he really believes this?
10. What does the book’s title, "Ask Again, Yes," mean to you?
11. This novel is specific to these two families, yet it also feels universal in its themes. Do you see echoes of your family’s history in the Gleesons or the Stanhopes?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)
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Ask Again, Yes by
Publication Date: 2019-05-28
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. 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. In Mary Beth Keane's extraordinary novel, a lifelong friendship and love 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 thirty years.
The Two-Family House by
Publication Date: 2016-03-08
Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy.
The Almost Sisters by
Publication Date: 2017-07-11
One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, Leia Birch Briggs is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War.
The Most Fun We Ever Had by
Publication Date: 2019-06-25
When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that awaits them. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are in a state of unrest. Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator turned stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she's not sure she wants by a man she's not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. With the arrival of Jonah Bendt--a child placed for adoption by one of the daughters fifteen years before--the Sorensons will be forced to reckon with the rich and varied tapestry of their past.