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After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  6,296 Ratings  ·  963 Reviews
This haunting story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death is “searing and unforgettable…memoir writing at its best” (San Francisco Chronicle)—a “powerfully affecting” (O, The Oprah Magazine) portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets.

“Family? Secrets? Sometimes I think they are the same thing.” So writes Michael Hainey in this unforgettable s
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Scribner (first published February 19th 2013)
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Joanne It's too good of a story to be fiction. My conclusion is that it's got to be based on a real life situation.
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This is not an amazing story; it is the telling of it that is.
Michael Hainey lost his father, a copy editor at a Chicago newspaper, when he was six, and, like a lot of families, his didn't discuss it further. They took the official version at face value and got on with it. But a boy who loses his father can never really just get on with it. Using his skills a journalist, Hainey goes on to find out the story of who is father was and how he died. While Hainey doggedly follows his need to know, he
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of those books. That tries to create a sense of poetry. Mystery. Drama. Through sentence fragments. And that maybe. Just maybe. Should have been. Nothing more than an article. In a magazine.
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love Chicago. Polish-Americans. Newspapermen and newspaperwomen.
Michael Hainey is a journalist. He starts looking into his father's death when he is in his mid-thirties. The various obituaries are not meshing. He approaches this whole thing as a journalist - as an investigative reporter. The crux of the matter is (view spoiler)

- The book is boring. I would be fascinated (FASCINATED) by this story if Hainey was my father or grandfather. I, of course, think family
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned about this book by watching an interview with Michael Hainey on the local Chicago PBS station, and was intrigued enough to order it right away. On so many levels this is a wonderful read. If you are interested in old style journalism and the role of a newspaper copy editor, the relationship of the press to the police, and the hard living in the night with the compartmentalization of family during the day, it is an amazing view into that world. For Chicagoans, it opens up a potpourri of ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A family past revisited.
Tragedy in a death under questionable circumstances.
A son wants to find the truth and wants not to upset his mother in unraveling the past.
In this story of truth the author has give us a poignant and wonderful look into his life and strung it swell together in great words in the right places.
In his search he makes the reader look within his or her life, at the greater things that need to be taken account of.
He had me thoroughly captivated in this story.
Defiantly one not t
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I came upon After Visiting Friends accidentally. Well, not exactly accidentally. I picked it up from the library after my husband requested it. It was sitting on the sofa a few days ago and I picked it up and read the flap. Then I read the first chapter. Then I told my husband he would have to wait to read it. I was going to read it first. Luckily, he is an understanding man and the book was so intriguing that I finished it in about 2 days.

It's unlikely I would ever have requested this book from
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

This is, hands down, one of the best books I've ever read.

Michael Hainey is a brilliant writer, and he has a fascinating story to tell that is made all the more moving by his own straightforward narrative style and the keep-it-inside-yourself emotional control of his mother.

When Michael was 6 and living in Chicago, his father, a copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, died of what was reported as a heart attack. The book's title comes from a line in the obits that ran in four of Chicago's papers,
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pacific-u-mfa
I wrote a review in The Nervous Breakdown, which begins:

I can’t write this review without disclosing that After Visiting Friends is my story. Or so it felt, as I read. Like Hainey, I am a member of what he calls the DFC, the Dead Father’s Club. Hainey was six when his father died at age 36 in Chicago. I was seven when my father died at 32 in Detroit. A veil of silence hung over the details throughout Hainey’s childhood. And mine.

I was mesmerized by this memoir, about a son reconstructing the lif
Gwen Owen
I'm sorry the author was so distraught about the death of his father and the questions surrounding it, but the reality of the situation seemed obvious to me from the start, and it seemed to take a frustratingly long time for him to reach the inevitable conclusion. It might have been a better essay than book.
Darian G.
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
My kind of book. So many levels. So well written. After Visiting Friends is a journey and a passage. It is a discovery and a remembrance. This memoir by Michael Hainey chronicles his struggle to discover how his father died when he was just 6 years old. The story told to his mother, he and his brother just does not fit on many levels. Immediately after he begins to look into the death he discovers that, while his family was told that his father died on the street alone, the obituaries state his ...more
Mary Lou
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
After Visiting Friends A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey is much like a suspense or mystery novel in that the author is searching for the facts about his father’s death, something that has puzzled him ever since it happened when he was six. By the time he graduates from high school, he knows that his father’s death certificate and multiple obituaries are incongruent. One write-up says nothing about the circumstances of the death, another says it was on the street after he left a friend’s home, and ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The set-up's rich with potential in this family memoir: when author Michael Hainey was six years old, his uncle showed up at their Chicago home one morning to tell everyone that his brother Bob--Michael's dad--was dead. Died of a heart attack, alone on the street, "after visiting friends" the night before. Bob was 35, a respected, hard-drinking night editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, and he left behind his lovely, taciturn wife, and two sons, including Michael. End of story. Though of course, not ...more
This book was not quite what I expected after skimming a couple of reviews; I think it was even better.

Michael Hainey's father, a Chicago newspaperman, died in 1970 when the younger Hainey was six years old and his brother two years older. Little was said about him after that, or about the manner of his death -- just that he had had a heart attack at 35. As Michael grew up and became a journalist himself, various parts of the story did not add up. When he reached the age at which his father had
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was moved to read this book after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. What drew me in was the present-day tense and fragmented cadence of the Chicago of my youth, a 1970s that suddenly is faded into a bittersweet memory unrecognizable by anyone who was not there. I read it often with a lump in my throat, recognizing the places and moments of the Northwest Side, sweeping along in the elegiac prose. And the story? That, too, is achingly perfect. Thank you, Michael Hainey. Five stars.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a number of reasons why I picked up this book – I am a print journalist and while our office works differently, it was part of the story I knew I could relate to. The second reason I checked this story out was because of the main story line – son loses father then finds out years later that there was more to the story. Again, something that I could relate to as an adoptee who found out years later she was adopted.

What I am shocked to discover while reading books like this, is how it s
Jan 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
With my life as a (former) journalist and fond memories of the profession (both good and bad), as soon as I heard the plot of this book, I was totally intrigued. After Visiting Friends tells the true story of a son (the author)'s attempts to uncover what really happened the night his father, Bob Hainey, a well-respected Chicago newspaperman, died mysteriously in 1970. Himself a reporter (and now around his father's age), Michael spent nearly a decade reporting for this book. His details in it ar ...more
Kristine Williams
What a wonderful book on so many levels! It took me a chapter or two to fall into the rhythm of the narrative—but when I let go of watching for tense changes and sentence structure, the stream of consciousness writing made the story even more powerful. I loved seeing inside the lost world of old school newspaper journalism, where characters were celebrated instead of flattened into mass marketed uniformity, and where the honor code of the brotherhood was an ironbound reality. How I would love to ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Told in sparse but wonderfully descriptive prose "After Visiting Friends" is required reading for anyone who lost a parent at a young age or is interested in reconnecting with a mom or dad after the lines of communication have been muted. The riveting tale of a son's search for the truth about the night his father died has applications for anyone who is interested in the distinction between truth and reality about the people that raised them. It's further devastating when one of those parents is ...more
Deborah Klein
Do not know how this book got the reviews it did. It is about as riveting as my Uncle Bob's war stories. If this were a movie, you'd see lots of meaningful glances, hard boiled "Mad Men" chatter, good time Susies and Sams, hear the swelling music, and see one lonely boy, trying to figure out his place in the world. Of course his Dad was the "best man in the business; the best I've ever known". His mother was the most beautiful girl in the newsroom. Otherwise, why write a book? But in fact, the a ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes this one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time is that it’s fundamentally a work of beautiful and unflinching reportage. After years of being obsessed over the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his father, a consummate Chicago newspaperman who was felled by an apparent heart attack at age 35, Hainey (who was six when it happened) digs deep into his family’s past to uncover the truth. He’s especially tipped off by one obituary that says his father died “after vis ...more
Sunny Shore
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down. The story of a family torn up by the mysterious death of the newspaperman father was so riveting. Michael Hainey, who was 6 when his dad was found on the street after supposedly dead from a heart attack at age 35, digs deep to tell the story of his family and how he went about finding the truth. How this death in 1970 changed everyone, how Hainey interviews people that his father knew, how a young boy can be changed in a single moment. Everything around him changed ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of mysteries involving journalists and/or journalism. I'd read the review of Michael Hainey's book in the New York Times and thought this would be an incredibly interesting read — a son trying to unravel the mystery surrounding his newspaperman father's death.

While Hainey's writing style is crisp and engaging, I just couldn't get into the "hunt for the truth." Perhaps I expected the truth to be much more interesting, and I guess there's not much Hainey can do about that lest he want to
Ellen Kobe
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ellen by: NPR
Michael Hainey's story is incredible on many levels. As a reader, I became completely invested in his story, which I think is one of the greatest challenges memoir/personal creative nonfiction authors have. As a journalist, I found this book extremely interesting as he does investigative reporting on himself. Half of the book was researched based, and I enjoyed seeing his strategies for digging up his family's past.

Furthermore, Hainey is the kind of writer we should all strive to be: descriptive
Squirrel Circus
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best indicator of how much I liked this book is the fact that I finished it about 48 hours after receiving it from the publisher (thanks to Early Reviewers!). I read it at work, standing up in the kitchen while making dinner, and in the carpool line to pick up the kids at school. Seriously. It's that much of a page turner. Michael Hainey has a talent for storytelling and has perfected the slow reveal. He draws nuanced portraits of his family and of the newspaper "game" in 1960s Chicago, whic ...more
Minty McBunny
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2013
I read a review of this book in EW and promptly put myself in the queue for it at my library. Then I waited for months until I finally got my hands on it this week. My wait was not in vain!

This story is told so simply, but the longing of Michael Hainey for any scrap of his father is evident in every word. I had visible chills several times while reading it & I found myself tearing up quite a bit in places as well. It's not only a document of a young man's search for the truth about his fathe
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a damn good book - depressing and sad to journey thru but beautifully crafted, researched and presented. We all create narratives on who we think our parents are - and ignore the obvious flaws and demons which surely they face and have.

The book is also a revealing portrait of a world of journalism, of a Mad Men styled old boys network who took care of each other and made sure the right stories get told about individuals, even though they are not wholly true.

Read this in one sitting, ju
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not to spoil the ending but I expected more of a revelation to the ending. I mean, you know the author is searching for how his father really died but ehh, not that much to it. It was ok though. I liked reading about 60s and early 70s Chicago.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this. Dad, you should read it.
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was sad and weird and about 100 pages too long
Sam Sattler
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, memoir
Michael Hainey was barely six years old when his 35-year-old father was found dead on a deserted Chicago street. Consequently, most of what Hainey knows about his father came to him second-hand via stories and "facts" delivered by his mother, older brother, and other relatives and friends of his father.

Bob Hainey, Michael's father, truly was the stereotypical Hollywood version of a big city newspaperman. Hard drinking, chain smoking, regularly working to the early hours of the morning, he was a
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2015 Reading Chal...: After Visiting Friends by Micheal Hainey 1 14 Aug 23, 2015 07:35AM  
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Michael Hainey was born in Chicago. He has sold fruits and vegetables; worked as a laborer on a road-repair crew; been a dish-washer; cooked cafeteria food; and sold men's clothes. For the last few years, he has been a magazine writer and editor. Currently, he is the deputy editor of GQ. He lives in Manhattan.
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“The past gives you no justice. Sentences are passed. But that doesn't mean you get justice. You can stand there forever and rail and say, 'Someone has to pay. I want what was taken from me.' But you're just going to get silence coming back at you. The past doesn't pay. We pay. And we're all free to decide when we've had enough.” 12 likes
“Fear is the trick of the enemy. And your enemy comes in many robes. But he has only one face. You know his face. You've seen it many times. You need not fear it. In your heart, you know you will triumph and you will defeat your enemy with the one weapon that you have inside you that he cannot touch--truth.” 6 likes
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