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After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story Hardcover – February 19, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: In 1970, when Hainey was six, his uncle showed up to say that his father had collapsed and died alone in the street on Chicago's North Side. Being out at dawn wasn't unusual for the elder Hainey, the Night Slot Man at the Chicago Sun Times who vetted every stitch of copy before it went to press. But as Hainey grew up and became a journalist himself, he checked his dad's obits and realized they didn't align. This is the story of his obsession with uncovering the real story of his father's death, how he broke through a wall of secrecy, and made startling revelations about the kind of man his dad had been--as a reporter, husband, and father. It's about how the truth transformed Hainey's relationships with his living family, especially his mother. Unfolding like a good novel with the gathering momentum of a mystery, Hainey's memoir explores the transgressions we'll willingly forgive to finally know someone, even after they're long gone. --Mari Malcolm
Guest Review: Elizabeth Gilbert on After Visiting Friends
I began reading Michael Hainey's beautiful book when I was about two days away from finishing my novel—maybe three—and I had been writing nonstop for five months. I would not normally have interrupted my work at such an important (for me) moment, but I simply couldn’t help myself. I read the first few pages of his memoir, and was immediately captured by it—taken hostage completely. There is no way to begin this book without desperately wanting to finish it as fast as possible. There is no way to sleep in peace until you know how this memoir ends. There is no way not to care.
Is there any more powerful story in the world than a boy looking for his father? Hainey's book 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. He's done extraordinary work with this book—it's so elegant, so careful, and so devastating. It is also written in the tight, immaculate prose of a world-class journalist and editor—somebody who has spent years learning his way around the ins and outs of a good sentence. This is the story of his life, clearly, and it reads that way—as though he has been honing and shaping this story forever. It is not carelessly told. There is not a bit of fat in this writing, which (writer-to-writer) I admire with all my heart.
It also has the lean and tough styling of a different time. Maybe it’s because Hainey was channeling (and challenging) his own hard-boiled reporter of a father, but there is something classical and gritty about this prose, something very masculine and mid-century. You can smell the cigarettes and whiskey, and the perfumes of the alluring women in shadows, the aftershave and the sweat of an older generation. There are hints of Dashiell Hammett in certain of these paragraphs. And yet Michael Hainey himself is not of that generation, and so he allows himself to feel things more honestly than those guys ever did. Even as we watch him struggle to become a man (despite the lurching absence of a father) he not afraid to uncover his deepest sorrows. He is not afraid of his own heart, his own losses, his own desperate weakness. That combination of old-school tough and new-age open is what makes this story so beautifully wrought, and so unusual. On that same note, I also appreciated that extraordinary care Hainey took in describing his mother, who was also a victim in Hainey’s father’s death. In the search for the missing man in his life, Hainey has not neglected to also search for the missing woman—the woman who was standing in the kitchen the whole time, frustrated and somewhat invisible.
I can't say I’ve ever read anything quite like this. I can’t think of a thing I would want him to change, and there are parts of this story that will stay with me forever. I plan to buy it for all my male friends. I think it’s an incredibly important book about coming into one’s own. I finished it in tears.
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month. See our current Editors' Picks.
Top Customer Reviews
When Michael was six, his thirty-five year old journalist father was found dead on the street, apparently of a heart attack. The story never registered as true with Michael, and as an adult, decides to use his journalism skills to investigate the death that happened decades earlier. What he lays out is an utterly fascinating account of the path he took to solve the mystery, and along the way, paints a picture of his family that is honest, and all together real.
The people Michael tells about are tightly drawn and all together real. His mother: widowed at an early age, not spared any sentiment or pity, but richly drawn as a person who did her best to shepherd her family through this event, on the surface never questioning her husband’s death. His grandmother: a strong wise woman succumbing to dementia.
Even more impressive are the people who Michael interviews along the way. One in particular resonated so strongly, she nearly dared to take over the story: Jan Scott, a receptionist in the Forensic Medicine building whose religion permeates her life and supports Michael in ways unpredictable. She’s a compelling character in a story with compelling characters.
These characters, these people, are compelling because of Hainey’s writing style. His prose is short, immediate, and present. He often writes without verbs, making the reading seem like lists, but it brings you right into the story and makes you feel like you are there.Read more ›
I agree with the other reviewers on the great writing, vivid details, and bygone but colorful language that immerse you in fascinating American history. The book really made me think about so many different things, but I'll only touch upon the parenting and relationship part.
After I read this (Kindle version), and I read this in two days because I was engrossed in it, I was again reminded of how far-reaching a parent's influence is. As a parent, you understand that you have an enormous responsibility to your children, but it's good to remember that one day your children will be fully grown adults and hopefully will still have a relationship with you- built upon the many conversations and experiences over decades. Behavior and communication patterns established early might still be in place later, so make sure those patterns are working. So, this book reminds me that you must help your children to understand things when they ask about tragedy- no matter how painful for you. The author's mother did a wonderful job raising her children without her husband. However, it seems that a lot of pain could have been alleviated if they could've talked more about the tragedy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pretty much figure out what's going on at the beginning and a lot of rambling until the anticlimatic end.Published 19 days ago by terri blackshear
This book makes you think about that question. For me, I'm not sure. The ending is a relief I think for both mother and son. Read morePublished 4 months ago by reader
Hmmm, I was expecting a bit more from this, story-wise. The big revelation wasn’t nearly as big as I was expecting. However, I’m still very glad I read it. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Martin P. Turnbull
As a member of the "Dead fathers club", and hiding the facts of my fathers death...this book touched me profoundly. Sad and beautiful at the same time.Published 6 months ago by Holly J. Bellerose
Mr Hainey paints a full picture of what life can be after the death of a significant family member, his father when he was 6. Read morePublished 7 months ago by log