*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Ask Again, Yes, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
If your book club is looking for a book about second chances, a story about forgiveness despite continued messiness, a novel with characters that ring true-to-life, then Ask Again, Yes, should be on your list.
Ask Again, Yes is a novel about hope, about forgiveness and second chances, so despite dealing with some characters with serious flaws who do some pretty terrible things in the beginning, this novel left me feeling, well, hopeful in humanity.
Like many other readers on the web have noted, this novel starts off heavy and I’ll admit I had a little trouble getting into the novel because I kept expecting it to take darker and darker turns, but ultimately this wasn’t true.
The novel follows two families, the Stanhopes and the Gleesons, over a span of thirty years as their bonds to one another are tested time and again, almost severing on one terrible night.
If you love character-driven novels and struggle to find books where the characters seem fully fleshed-out, this is the book for you. Keane’s use of specific details made these characters feel so real to me, despite the fact that I have almost nothing in common with them. Still, her writing isn’t weighted down or too florid.
In fact, Keane’s writing is superb and the way she handles that long stretch of time over the short length of a novel shows her prowess.
The events in the novel, Keane’s writing, and the vivid characters she creates, make Ask Again, Yes a perfect book club pick. It’s a book you’ll be thinking about and talking about for a while!
On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for Ask Again, Yes, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
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Here’s a brief summary of Ask Again, Yes:
When Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope meet their rookie year in the NYPD, they can’t imagine how their lives will become entangled. Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart, soon become inseparable friends, but the same can’t be said of Francis’ wife, Lena, and Brian’s wife, Anne.
On one shocking night, the unthinkable happens and the bond between the Gleesons and Stanhopes is shattered, tearing Kate and Peter apart. Years later, Kate and Peter find their ways back to each other, but their parents still struggle with the ramifications of that long ago catastrophic event.
A story about the intimacies of marriage and friendship, the Gleesons and Stanhopes lose their footing, stumble as they try to regain balance, but ultimately stand once more through the redemptive power of forgiveness.
For the Ask Again, Yes recipe:
For the Ask Again, Yes recipe, I browsed through the food ideas from the pages of the novel and the reconciliation scene between Anne and Francis in Chapter 19 stood out to me. I considered making homemade chocolate Irish Crunchie bars, but decided instead to make pots de crème–a chocolate treat that is infused with Ireland’s famous Guinness beer.
If you have access to Irish Crunchie bars (made by Cadbury), it would be a lovely addition to crush one and sprinkle it across the tops of the pots de crème. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one, so I used finely chopped dark chocolate instead.
If you are looking for something else to cook, here are a few other food suggestions from Ask Again, Yes:
- Chapter 2 – breaded chicken drumsticks and canned green beans – the day Peter takes over cooking dinner and Anne smashes his ship
- Chapter 3 – Peter bakes his own gingerbread cookies for the school bake sale
- Chapter 6 – Pasta with meat sauce and ginger ales — George freshens up the apartment when Peter decides to stay with him in New York
- Chapter 10 – Beer, margaritas, chips, dips, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, macaroni salad — Kate’s graduation party
- Chapter 18 – Marinated London broil, pasta salad, fruit salad, and bakery rolls — Anne Stanhope comes to Kate and Peter’s for dinner
- Chapter 19 – Chicken and potatoes with a promise of ice cream, but Irish Crunchie candy bars instead — Anne watches the kids and Francis shows up
Pots de crème are a small labor of love, but the result is worth it. The Guinness in this recipe adds a depth of flavor to the chocolate that is truly delicious, but if you prefer not use alcohol in the recipe, you can substitute the Guinness for additional heavy cream.
One note, the chocolate pictured below is not chopped finely enough!
Please chop your chocolate (even morsels) so that when you pour the warm cream over them they will melt properly. Mine did not and I had to redo the recipe, chopping the chocolate into finer pieces that melted.
If you are a chocolate lover, this recipe is going to delight you.
The pots de crème are small, but incredibly rich and decadent treats. The recipe makes six, 4-ounce pots de crème, so, if you have a larger book club, make sure you make enough for everyone.
Guinness Pots de Crème
For the Pots de Crème
- 6 ounces dark chocolate 55% cocoa or higher, chopped into very small pieces
- 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup Guinness Stout Beer
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the whipped topping:
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp dark chocolate chopped finely for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Place the chopped 6 ounces of chocolate in a bowl and place a sieve over the top. Make sure your chocolate is chopped finely enough that warm liquid will melt it.
- Pour the heavy cream and Guinness into a heavy bottom saucepan and gradually increase heat until the cream comes to a simmer, being careful not to scald it.
- Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let set for 3 minutes while you complete step 5.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and gradually add in the sugar. Once incorporated, whisk for one more minute until the yolk mix turns pale yellow.
- Using a spoon, drip the warm cream into the yolks, continuing to stir with your whisk slowly. This will temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling. Continue until all the cream is mixed in.
- Quickly pour the cream and yolk mix through the sieve above the chocolate, catching any coagulated bits of eggs. Stir gently with your whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixed through.
- If desired, skim the surface of foam or bubbles. (This is an optional step but will result in a prettier pot de crème).
- Pour into 6 4-ounce ramekins or small dishes. Arrange in a baking pan and fill the bottom of the pan with water until it comes halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tops are just set. Watch carefully, the tops should not crack like a brownie. Remove when you notice this starting to happen around the edges.
- Carefully remove from the oven and remove the ramekins from the baking pan. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.
- For the whipped topping:
- 15 minutes before serving pour the heavy cream and the sugar into a stand mixer. Beat on high until soft peaks form.
- Top the pots de crème with as much whipped cream as desired and sprinkle with the finely chopped dark chocolate for garnish.
Ask Again, Yes Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- The novel deals with the complexity of marriage and how some marriages are able to overcome tragedy while others are not. Discuss Francis and Lena’s, Brian and Anne’s, and Peter and Kate’s marriages. Why do you think that two of the marriages were able to survive what happened but the other wasn’t? Why do you think Brian never filed for divorce?
- Discuss Brian’s character. How do you think his character (off-page) may have played into Anne’s mental disintegration? What did you think of his treatment of Peter? Why do you think he left them in his will?
- Anne turns Peter away many times when she is receiving treatment, but later begins to take a serious interest in his life, even if from afar. Do you think it was the treatment that changed her perspective or something else?
- Francis and Lena are challenged both by a tragic incident and infidelity. Why do you think Lena stayed beside Francis through it all? What did you think of the affair?
- Towards the end of the book, Anne reflects on a quote from her counselor. “We repeat what we don’t repair.” She had always considered this to be in relation to her own mistakes and life until she started to see similar patterns develop in Peter’s life. This ultimately drives her to ask for forgiveness. What do you think of this quote? How did it play out as true in the novel in other characters?
- Why do you think Peter and Kate are so drawn to one another? Do you think it’s a case of wanting what you can’t, or shouldn’t, have or something more?
- We read through four decades of the Gleeson’s and Stanhope’s lives. What was your favorite part of this saga? What was your least favorite part (excluding the tragedy).
- So many lives were upended by the incident between the two families. Discuss the character’s actions surrounding the incident. For example: Why do you think Anne did it? Why do you think Francis didn’t press for a prison sentence? And, etc.
- The characters in this novel deal with heavy burdens—mental illness, alcoholism, stressful occupations, caretaking, infidelity, and more. All of the characters, except occasionally Kate, struggle to address these issues head-on and instead often refuse to speak about them. How does finally talking about these things bring about healing and forgiveness? Discuss those scenes where reconciliation begin to take place.
- This is a heavy novel, but ends with hope. Did you enjoy it? What other novels have you read that are similar that you enjoyed more or less than Ask Again, Yes? Discuss the differences, especially if you’ve read something similar as a Book Club.
Have you read Ask Again, Yes? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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