Ask Me Again
From Clare Sestanovich, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize nominee whose short stories received instant acclaim (‘Sparingly told, evoked with lacerating intimacy . . . Extraordinary’ – Esquire), Ask Me Again is a debut novel about a young woman’s coming of age, in parallel with a renegade male friend who challenges her beliefs and the course of her life.
At sixteen, Eva meets Jamie by chance. She lives in middle-class South Brooklyn; he comes from the super-rich of upper Manhattan. She’s observant, cautious, eager to seem normal; he’s curious, bold, full of mysteries. She keeps a keen intelligence under wraps; his eccentric brilliance is all but impossible to repress.
While Eva welcomes Jamie into her family’s embrace, he avoids going home; with little in common, they are drawn together in a deep friendship. As Eva goes off to an elite college and falls in and out of love, Jamie drops out of school and joins the Occupy Wall Street movement. Eva, so often trapped by self-doubt, is both awed and repelled by the strength of Jamie’s convictions.
Carried forcefully along by Sestanovich’s highly observant, butterfly-pinning prose, these two characters, pulled into separate spheres, circle the same questions: how to define their values and find their purpose, how to create a sense of self while discovering what they owe to society and to the cause of justice. The geometry of their platonic love leads us on a surprising journey of intimacy across time – exposing the alchemy of connection, of the relationships that can define who we are and can even change us, and the possible futures we might not have imagined for ourselves.
Ask Me Again is a beautifully observed and deeply philosophical novel, which surprises and delights at every turn.
Jenny Offill, author of Weather
Rigorous, intensely observed, and brimming with the sort of elusive revelations that form the heartbeat of a life, Sestanovich’s novel debut demonstrates a tremendous gift at rendering the texture of love, faith, and heartbreak with both subtlety and force. In her masterful hands, relationships condense, turn acute, and unfurl with symphonic grace across the individual arcs of characters that you can’t help but carry with you long afterward.
Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
This beautiful debut novel is wise about intellectual and erotic discovery, disenchantment and loneliness. It’s alert to the small moments of awkwardness and grace that make up the texture of common life; its quiet, tectonic power comes from an awareness of how easily common life can tilt toward catastrophe. Clare Sestanovich is a writer of disarming radiance.
Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness