Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

downloadTwo cops starting out in New York in the 70’s who then move to the same suburb–and what we get is the story of what happens over the next 30-40 years.

The wife in one family is mentally ill, and something bad happens, involving that and the other family, but despite all that, their children are inexorably drawn to each other.  That’s the gist–but there’s way too much going on for my taste. There’s immigration (the wife from one family and the husband from the other are from Ireland), mental illness, serious alcoholism, family struggles and abandonment, and way too many points of view, such that I just didn’t know where to focus. I would feel like it was going to be one person’s story, and then we’d never hear from her again.

Everything after the initial period when the cops’ kids are children is oddly rushed. It feels more like a summary than like dipping in deeply in moments that matter, perhaps partly because it’s all third person with no occasion for the telling. If the relationship between the two families’ kids is the thing, then why include so many other points of view?

The book gestures toward an interest in justice–police, crime lab, prosecution, early on a delving into the personal experiences of cops seeing difficult things–but it never digs in, so all that just feels like trappings. There’s nothing to unify it.

Don’t get me wrong–it was readable and entertaining. But it was good material with no focus, no structure or discipline, no new insights, and nothing gorgeous.

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