An incredible story, this narrative follows two generations of two families that at one time were neighbours in the suburbs outside NYC. Both families have an Irish immigrant, members of the NYPD, and children who grow up and attend school together. Each family has their own struggles and secrets and one night they are connected by a violent, tragic act that changes the lives of everyone involved.
This is a story about loneliness, mental illness, addiction, tragedy, love, forgiveness, and, above all, family. Time feels very fluid, flowing over months or years and then settling to reveal more of the story. Maybe because of this, the characters can feel superficial at times. It sometimes feels as though you only get to spend a moment with one person before you’re moved along to the next or further along in the timeline.
Where Francis and Lena feel like a solid, well-matched couple, their neighbours Brian and Anne feel forced together. They avoid each other, spending more time alone than they do together or with their son Peter. Peter, always careful not to disturb the tense balance in the house, spends most of his time with Francis and Lena’s daughter Kate, causing Anne to feel irrationally jealous and lash out at those around her. As Anne’s mental stability unravels, Brian withdraws further and Peter becomes even more cautious and careful. After Anne lashes out, this careful balance is shattered and the two families are separated.
What follows is interesting, even if it is predictable. The unsung hero of this story is George, Brian’s younger brother and Peter’s uncle. It’s not clear until later just how much younger George is than Brian, making it all the more impressive how much he does for his family.
This story dips into a few too many cliches about addiction, mental health, and forgiveness for me to rate it higher than three stars. The following spoilers reveal serious plot points and I wouldn’t recommend opening them if you plan to read Ask Again, Yes.