Ask Again, Yes: The story of a family broken by mental illness

Book review: Mary Beth Keane has written an engaging, compassionate novel

Mary Beth Keane

Mary Beth Keane

It’s notoriously difficult to write about mental illness in fiction. The novelist always runs the risk of descending into cliche. Perhaps the greatest depiction of the condition lies in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the closing sections between Boo Radley and Scout shatter prejudices while demanding empathy from the reader.

Mary Beth Keane – whose novel Fever presented a lively account of “Typhoid Mary”, who spent 30 years incarcerated in a New York sanatorium on suspicion of being the bearer of a lethal bacterial infection – takes on the subject in an epic tale of family life in upstate New York that is both gripping and exhausting.

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