After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

3.6 31
by Michael Hainey
     
 

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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

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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:
02/19/2013
Pages:
299
Sales rank:
903,215
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

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.
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.
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.”
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.”

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