I’ve read at least three novels since posting last, but can I remember what they are? I cannot. Gone are the days of coming back to a post three weeks later with a somewhat clear memory of what I read, let alone the title. Ah well. In this case I finished the book last week and the kids are still sleeping (at 7:09am!) so I’ll get this out to you without more meandering.
Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes is a warm fuzzy sort of socks and blanket book. Following Peter and Kate across their soul-mate lives together, the book (tries to) explores how people enter relationships not as individuals but within constellations of relationships, and that any romance is both between two individuals and those intersecting networks of people. In this case, the families of Peter and Kate have an incredibly fraught relationship after a “explosive event” (so says the book jacket) that changes the trajectory of the families and the individuals within. Whether the two can – or should – find one another again is the subject of much of the middle half of the book.
The other set of questions – beyond that of how and whether a loving relationship is possible amid family drama – is around if and how people can change because of or despite their childhood, and – strangely? – the role of the medical or penal systems in enabling and limiting this change. I say strangely as the book doesn’t seem conscious of the ways doctors, hospitals, rehab centers, courts, police and prisons are represented as uncomplicated in their ability to help. It’s worth saying – if it’s also obvious – that these systems are… not uncomplicated in their ability to help.
[SEVERAL DAYS LATER]
And then the last thing to say is that the book seems unable to let anyone suffer without that suffering meaning something, having that suffering both eventually resolve and in the resolution imparting something decent on the suffers. It is maddening, even while it is… cozy. What a triumph of escapism to imagine that All of This could eventually lead to something… better. Something… meaningful. So maybe not fiction after all, so much as cozy fantasy.