After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

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Overview

A decade in the writing, the haunting story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death—a universal memoir about the secrets families keep and the role they play in making us who we are.

Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young ...

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Overview

A decade in the writing, the haunting story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death—a universal memoir about the secrets families keep and the role they play in making us who we are.

Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family’s back door one morning with the tragic news: Bob Hainey, Michael’s father, was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn. And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family—and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood. Finally, roughly his father’s age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. What friends? Where? At the heart of his quest is Michael’s all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity—and a steely determination not to look back. Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father’s buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he’d imagined with the one he comes to know—and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.

A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, After Visiting Friends is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Six-year-old Hainey woke one morning to a knock on the door of his family’s house in Chicago; Hainey’s uncle delivered the news that Michael’s 35-year-old father, Bob, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, had been found dead of an apparent heart attack. What happened to him? Why had he been out so late and not at home? Bob Hainey’s obituary indicates that the newspaperman was visiting friends; who were these friends? In this heartfelt memoir, Hainey painfully reconstructs the few years he recalls with his father and painstakingly searches for clues that might help him understand his father’s death. When he turns 35, Hainey sets off on a quest to interview as many of his father’s friends as will talk to him, to review all the published details of his father’s death, and to discover what his father was really like. Along the way, “instead of conjuring my father dying alone, he sees this alternate, secret narrative: him, friends, far from home, late at night....” Eventually, he discovers a disturbing secret that his mother has long kept silent, grappling to understand this new dimension of his parents’ lives and resigning himself to having discovered a side of his father he never knew. (Feb.)
USA Today - Craig Wilson
“A well-reported story beautifully told. [Michael Hainey’s] father could only be proud.”
Chicago Tribune - Rick Kogan
“A fascinating, honest, and deeply touching story about a father and son, the price of family secrets, and the redemptive power of truth…Readers will be captivated and moved.”
Time Out New York
“Peering into an uncomfortable past, the journalist traces his family’s history with dramatic, highly readable prose that makes the story feel like a compelling mystery.”
Entertainment Weekly - Rob Brunner
“Part what next? detective story, part moving family portrait, and part wistful ode to the whiskey-sloshed mid-century Chicago newspaper world…”
Newsday - Dan Cryer
“[After Visiting Friends] moves with the pace of a thriller…it’s both tenderhearted and tough. Michael Hainey is blessed with his father’s writing crops, his mother’s steely resolve and his own, hard-won wisdom.”
Chicago Reader - Michael Miner
“[After Visiting Friends is] an elegy to a vanished era of newspapering.”
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
After Visiting Friends is full of love for the lost world of nocturnal newspaper work and after-hours boozing.”
New York Observer - Rafi Kohan
“In a sea of self-discovery memoirs, After Visiting Friends stands out for its level of journalistic inquiry…This doggedness is what brings Mr. Hainey to the truth about his dad.”
Shelf Awareness - Ron Hogan
“Hainey’s recollection of a childhood defined by his father’s absence is haunting…Hainey’s candor in After Visiting Friends, especially about the self-doubt and frustration that accompany his quest, makes it easy for us to root for him—not just in the search for truth but in the emotional transformation that comes with it.”
The San Francisco Chronicle - James McGrath Morris
“[A] searing and unforgettable memoir…Simply put, After Visiting Friends is memoir writing at its best…Gut wrenching, riveting and touching.”
The Denver Post - Tucker Shaw
“Hainey’s words are clear, swift, colorful, precise, sometimes devastating.”
the Oprah magazine O
“[A] powerfully affecting memoir…”
Chicago Sun-Times - Neil Steinberg
“A gripping real-life mystery…Michael Hainey has written a heartbreaking book, a page-turner that spurs the reader forward.”
The Daily Beast - Chris Wallace
“Hacking through the tangles of conspiracy and silence, Hainey is as dogged as Marlowe or Spade, but his path is illuminated by a warmth of spirit those sleuths lacked.”
Chicago Magazine - David Bernstein
“Hainey is a tremendously talented writer. He has written a thrilling page-turner, in a style that is personally reflective and meticulously reported. His prose is crisp and efficient—poetic.”
Booklist - Vanessa Bush
“A beautifully written exploration of family bonds and the secrets that may test them.”
Vanity Fair - Elissa Schappell
“Since the age of six, Michael Hainey had been haunted by the mysterious death of his father, a Chicago newspaperman. In After Visiting Friends he recounts in moving detail the obstacles he faced in uncovering the truth.”
J.R. Moehringer
"Michael Hainey makes his quest for answers about his father read like a thriller. Then, just when he’s got you turning pages as fast as you can, he stops you with a heartrending detail, or steers you into some drowsy gin mill or fading prairie town for a sidebar of blunt-force power. By the end you’re wrung out, but also uplifted."
Nick Flynn
"As much an elegy to a once-upon-a-time era in American newspapers as it is a journey back, into a family and its past, to find truth. With poetic grace and taut investigative storytelling, Michael Hainey's After Visiting Friends shows how to keep going we sometimes need to pause and look back at where and who we come from."
Elizabeth Gilbert
“Is there any more powerful story in the world than a boy looking for his father? Michael Hainey's memoir begins with a mysterious death, proceeds through years of unanswered questions, builds into a relentless investigation, and ends with the stubborn alchemy of a heart transformed. This is a beautiful work of reporting and redemption. Parts of this story will stay with me forever. I finished it in tears."
Peter Orner
“Michael Hainey's After Visiting Friends is my sort of book, a Chicago book, a family book of secrets. The powerful mystery at the heart of this story will pull you through to the moving ending, but its Hainey's straightforward and harrowing honesty that will grip you and stay with you. There's great dignity in the way Hainey treats his people, and this lost story.”
David Sheff
“Michael Hainey is a great writer. His memoir, After Visiting Friends, is not only gripping and powerful, but it is impeccably written. With a deft hand and a gentle touch, memoir becomes mystery in a world that brings back a bygone era of newspapermen. Hainey takes us through a deeply poignant journey of self-discovery—about how hard it is to sort out who we are and why we are and how our searches can lead to the most unexpected, but most satisfying, discoveries.”
Gabrielle Hamilton
“I inhaled this story. Everything you want and need in a book. I started chapter one with my coffee in the morning and then never made it to work. A beautiful book.”
John Jeremiah Sullivan
"A book whose heartbreak and humor, in the true Irish tradition, can't be untangled. It's a kind of detective story, but the mystery is the past itself."
Christian Science Monitor - Randy Dotinga
“Captivating and poignant…”
Interview - Christopher Bollen
After Visiting Friends is a devastating, heat-seeking, investigative search for the truth...The gorgeousness of Hainey’s prose turns the search into an interior odyssey, to the limits of memory, to expiring minds that can no longer account for their undoing, to the dreams applied to family members who are no longer there.”
Campus Circle - Angela Matano
“[A] terrific memoir…Hainey’s representation of his mother bursts with love and awe…The questions of family, loyalty and truth emerge in After Visiting Friends and will resonate with just about everyone. The surprise—for Hainey and the reader—is recognition of the compassion behind the cover-up."
J. Crew (tumblr)
“Hainey is a superb storyteller…Rock-solid reporting mixed with heartfelt vignettes, lovely imagery (Hainey is a published poet) and a certain fairness, grit and honesty toward anything and everyone involved make After Visiting Friends one of the best books we’ve read in recent memory.”
Hutchinson Leader - Kay Johnson
“A stirring book…”
Library Journal
The hazy and conflicting details of his Chicago newspaperman father’s long-ago death bothered Hainey (deputy editor, GQ) enough that he spent years unraveling the story of what really happened that night. Central to this noirish tale is Hainey’s mother, an enigmatic woman who held her family together in spite of (or perhaps with the aid of) secrets.Years of investigation lead to new truths about her as well as the original mystery of his father’s death that Hainey set out to solve.
VERDICT Readers may intuit quickly what happened the night of Hainey’s father’s death but the portrait of the bygone world of the Chicago newspaper industry and the slow unraveling of the puzzle surrounding Bob Hainey’s life, rather than his death, will keep readers interested beyond that point.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A young reporter goes in search of his long-lost, deceased father. "There's lots of stories you haven't heard," said the narrator's mother when he asked about an unfamiliar family anecdote. But GQ deputy editor Hainey wanted to hear them all. When his father died suddenly one spring day in 1970, he left behind two boys, a wife and a trail of questions that no one wanted to answer for Hainey. For years, the family danced silently around the subject of his father, until the author decided to track down whatever true story was left of him. It was the obituary that set him off: His father allegedly died "after visiting friends," but who were they? Who was with him in his final hours? With medical records and a few shaky, secondhand accounts from his father's former co-workers, a tight-lipped crew of old-time Chicago newspapermen, Hainey hoped to fill the gaps between what he had always been told and what it seemed might actually be true. His personal investigation took him across the country and into strangers' lives, but the most difficult and hard-won part of the journey was his gradual, intimate understanding of his mother and brother. Hainey's writing is balletic, nimbly avoiding both sentimentality and sensationalism, making grief and absence into powerful and fully felt forces. His short scenes appear like flashes of memory, prose poems of what once was, and he skillfully weaves a narrative that transcends his own and spans generations. From family history to Chicago lore, Hainey searches the deepest fissures of memory and finds a hidden and entire "world of men, of stories, of knowledge" that wasn't there before. Part elegy, part mystery and wholly unforgettable.
From the Publisher
"From family history to Chicago lore, Hainey searches the deepest fissures of memory and finds a hidden and entire 'world of men, of stories, of knowledge' that wasn't there before. Part elegy, part mystery and wholly unforgettable." —-Kirkus Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451676563
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/19/2013
  • Pages: 299
  • Sales rank: 784,440
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Hainey

Michael Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ. He was born in Chicago and now lives in Manhattan.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

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1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    Visiting friends, why bother.

    I initially thought a memoir situated in Chicago would be interesting but other than the location it was a real snore. The search for answers in the reporters dads death wasnt compelling. There wasnt enough depth in character development and the ending of the book was predictable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Hoping for more

    Should have been a short story in GQ magazine than an actual book. This may have been the authors way of working through the skeleton's in his families closet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    I saw Michael Hainey on local Chicago TV and ordered the book ri

    I saw Michael Hainey on local Chicago TV and ordered the book right away. I did not want to put it down.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    excellent, reads like a mystery novel

    i really enjoyed the book, it is very well written and although i suspected the circumstances of his father's death even before i bought the book, it ends up that is not the point of the book. the search for that truth becomes the journey of how the author make deeper connections to his family

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2014

    Loved it

    Excellent book. Enjoyed the writing style immensely. Very touching.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    The author commits the most serious of blunders: he is BORING. T

    The author commits the most serious of blunders: he is BORING. There is nothing interesting about myopic self-interested unchallenging observations. Then again, the level of dull idiocy one finds here is not surprising considering that it was produced by a pathetic glorified pawn.
    In this 'book,' there is no idealogical commitment, in fact, no commitment to anything at all except to the Self (and one's Past) as commodity. Furthermore, the point of writing a memoir is to participate in the beautiful and sacred ritual of alchemy: transforming, transmogrifying, becoming anew through understanding and change. But there is none of that here because there is no story. Hainey has nothing interesting to say, no worthwhile observations-there is no larger linking of ideas but only the re-packaging of what he and a PR girl or two probably found 'exciting.'
    How utterly lacking in ethical bearing it is to use a father's death to attract attention to oneself in such a mediocre way. The father was a journalist, the son is joke.This should have never been published and would not have been if Hainey didn't occupy the media-strong position he does. I can only hope he uses the profits from this in some more altruistic way than for acquiring his 50th Italian bespoke suit. In sum, 'A Son's Story'-ugh even the title is cring-inducing and so lame-is a sentimental masquerade that obscures a void. It is totally irrelevant and unnecessary garbage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2013

    akatskee1@yahoo.com

    Add me...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    To lexi

    Hey

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I find myself drawn to memoirs and it surprises me because they

    I find myself drawn to memoirs and it surprises me because they don't tend to have a lot of action. But the good ones take the reader on a journey of discovery and growth. 'After Visiting Friends'  did that. I loved the ending. 

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    So glad I bought this book!

    Excellent - evocative and beautifully written.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2013

    Michael Hainey is one heck of a writer. The story is powerful an

    Michael Hainey is one heck of a writer. The story is powerful and gripping. It's one of these books that is impossible to put down. He writes with such honesty and beauty. You read about family (their past), the old newspaper world (they have a coda of sticking together), how he went about his investigation, and what he found.
    Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ. This is his first book and I hope it's not his last. Truly tremendous writing.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    Fantastic

    Gripping hold on to your seat reading cant put it down

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Not for me

    Didn't hold my interest, founb myself speed reading this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    LOVED THIS BOOK!

    Great true story - sometimes real life is stranger then fiction - Felt like I knew the writer and his mom and dad and really cared about them all.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2013

    Slow

    Sorry, but this was not a page turner. While it is a good story, I believe the writing of this book was a personal catharsis. An average read at best.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    This story grabs you from the start and doesn't let you go until

    This story grabs you from the start and doesn't let you go until the end.  A very touching story that anyone with a family can relate to. 

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    Very good read

    A lovely story of a man searching for the truth behind his father's death when he was 6 yrs old. As a journalist, he tracks down all the leads he has and tries to break the wall of silence from his father's friends as to what really happened. Since his dead died in 1970, many of the people he needs to talk to are dead. But being the resilient reporter, he unearths as much of the truth as he can. It's really a story of family, single mothers, a time when police and the press were too close for comfort and a story of a boy wanting to know the father who left him so early. You really get invested in his story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    great book,  

    great book,  

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Compelling story. Felt like I was in Chicago. Completely satisfied.

    A memoir that reads like a mystery.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Excellent

    Beautifully written, a page turner

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews

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