From a Connecticut sanitarium, twenty-four-year-old Betsy Scott tells her doctor a story about the destructive secrets in an outwardly successful family. Confusing love and sex, desire and fear, Betsy grows alienated, confused and desperate. She finally faces truths about herself and her family that enable her to move beyond them and into a new life. Since You Ask is about the origins of sexual compulsion, and the ways in which one young woman tries to overcome it.
Winner of the James Jones Literary Society First Novel Award
“Although it ends on a hopeful note, this is obviously a very dark book—and potentially a controversial one—but Wareham has created a compelling character who earns her readers’ attention.” —Booklist
“A sustained and sustaining adventure . . . Reading this novel, I saw the substance (and substances) of unhappiness transformed into something even brighter than courage. This is a splendid debut.” —Donald Revell, author of Arcady
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Last May my whole family drove out to JFK Airport to meet Raymond. He had been gone for six years, and Dad was carrying his camera as if Ray were some kind of movie star. Usually, I was nervous around Ray, but I wasn't that day. Partly because I didn't live at home anymore and partly because Ray didn't bother me anymore.
'Give your brother a kiss,' my mother said, prodding me in the back.
'Put your arm around her,' Dad said, pointing his camera at us. Then Eric stood between us and Dad took pictures of that, too.
In the car, we passed rows and rows of housing projects, all square and brown and the same. I would have to kill myself if I lived in a place like that. I pointed this out, but no one said anything.
Raymond lit a cigarette when he stepped out of the car. Couldn't you wait, I wanted to say. He had a few drags, then flicked it to the gutter. We went to Sardi's. It was loud and crowded, and Dad ordered wine and pasta with clams. He gave a toast to Raymond, 'our prodigal son.' I looked at Eric, but he didn't seem to notice. Raymond set his glass on the table and tapped his fingers. Then he went to the bathroom.
Dr. Keats, my psychiatrist here, says I am too 'fragmented.' I am overwhelmed, he says. My mind is overwhelmed and for this reason it has begun to crack, or 'break.' He doesn't say this in a mean way, but in a way I will understand. I do understand, too. I am glad he says this because it is true. It is frightening and it is true.
After dinner, Dad dropped me off at 46th and Ninth. I had a sublet there: one room with a platform bed and a table overlooking the airshaft. The building was full of dance studios. I could hear African drums sometimes, or the footsteps of ballet classes. My place belonged to a ballet dancer; she had gone to Europe for a year. As soon as I got inside, I wanted to go out again. No one was around, though. Sylvia was at Yale, and Henry was in the Hamptons. I turned the television on, then off. I sat on my bed and looked through my phone book and finally, I called Beck.
We had met on the street, six years ago. Even then, when he was eighteen, he was the best-looking boy I had ever seen. He was grown like a man and as serious, leaning against a car with his arms on his chest, staring at me.
Now he was a corrections officer at the Tombs. He came over and sat on my bed, lighting matches with one hand. 'Oh, Betsy,' he said. 'Betsy, Betsy.'
'What?' I asked.
'You're all grown up. You've got this apartment and all your books.' He dropped his hand to my knee. 'Can I?'
What People are Saying About This
The truly important novel, as Tolstoi so passionately averred, is
the adventure of a question; and the question, most often, is unhappiness.
Ranging inward to a psyche’s unsettled relation to itself, and out into the
wilderness of family and love, Louise Wareham's Since You Ask is a sustained and
sustaining adventure, passionate as Tolstoi would approve. Reading this novel, I
saw the substance (and substances) of unhappiness transformed into something
even brighter than courage. This is a splendid debut.
author of Arcady
Louise Wareham's debut novel is a work of staggering intensity, written in a
deceptively straight-forward, no-nonsense prose, which belies the vast
iceberg of unexplored pain that lurks just below its surface.
author of A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries
Louise Wareham evokes the mystery of sexual compulsion with stunning
honesty and quiet compassion. She captures the wry and brilliant humor of
Betsy Scott, her core of tensile courage, so that we can bear to witness her
life, so that we can keep our faith as she enters chaos to seek redemption. In the
fragments of a fractured life, in stark and radiant images, Louise Wareham
recovers miraculous beauty, a fragile stained glass vision of one woman's whole
and luminous spirit.
author of Sweet Hearts
Louise Wareham's keyed-down style amplifies the threat in the sexual
terrain her narrator travels. She conveys the disequilibrium a young woman
sustains in a run of soul-honing liaisons. 'He saw I had been through something.
And it was something that would serve him'--that the young narrator sees this
and LIKES this in a man is the kind of charged and startling observation that
powers this striking novel.
author of Reasons to Live
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a powerful novel. Wareham doesn't take the "easy" route of child sexual abuse - an evil perpetrator stalking his prey. But rather a much more complex and ambiguous route - her heroine Betsy is unsure of her own role - is she complicit ? - did she invite this and subsequent abuse? On the surface things are pretty and easy. These are wealthy, privileged young people but underneath the surface there is roiling unrest. The interaction between this surface world and reality is not perfect - I was disappointed that the scene with Betsy's parents and the perpetrator of her abuse was not explored or even described really. But this is a great first novel.