Reading lists

What I’m reading: Mary Beth Keane

The American author of Ask Again, Yes author picks six books she couldn’t put down.

Mary Beth Keane
Mary Beth Keane picks her recent reading list.
Image: Nina Subin

American author Mary Beth Keane put herself on the literary map ages ago – after publishing her first novel in 2010, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” in 2011 – but it’s with her latest, Ask Again, Yes, that she’s poised to make her biggest waves yet.

Released in 2019, Keane’s third novel is a widescreen story of two American families, the nature of time and the power of redemption that made its way to the New York Times bestseller list and the Radio 2 Summer Book Club, and earned Keane an invite to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

With Ask Again, Yes now out in paperback, we asked Keane to tell us what she’s been reading lately.

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan (2020)

The story is about a new mother's relationship with her babysitter after moving away from Brooklyn to a small town in upstate New York, but it's really about class, privilege, and identity, and all the ways we lie to ourselves and to the people we love. I thought it was an incredibly nuanced portrait of domestic life and female friendship.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz (2020)

The main character here, Ana, rises from the page fully formed. Plucked from her childhood in the Dominican Republic and married at 15 to a man in his thirties, I rooted for her from the moment I met her. It’s a novel of immigration and leaving home – a genre I’m always drawn to – but more than that she is a girl, and then a woman, trying to find power in a world ruled by men. I felt such a strong sense of kinship with her.

Listen to an extract from Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)

A reader need not be a student of Shakespeare to appreciate this book. Grief, hope, resilience – the world of this novel is so vivid I could nearly smell the grass in the fields. In moments where the story shoots up to heaven I was there, too, feeling how lucky we all are to be alive, understanding how desperately we want the people we love to be remembered.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (2020)

A totally original novel that snuck up on me as I was reading. I knew the premise before I began – the kids burst into flames – but I was sceptical that I would like it. I lost all doubt by the end of the first paragraph. The truths Wilson arrives at, the moments of humanity – I fell completely in love with this weird book.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (2020)

This story follows the aftershocks of a brutal crime in a small West Texas community. Wetmore understands the nuances of the human heart better than almost any writer I’ve read in recent years, and I rooted for these women with everything I have. There is violence here, and despair, but in the end the story is a testament to quiet courage and to hope.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is out now.

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