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After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story Kindle Edition
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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.
- ASIN : B008J4E2PI
- Publisher : Scribner; Reprint edition (February 19, 2013)
- Publication date : February 19, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 4410 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 322 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #622,178 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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After a lifetime writing for newspapers, I can’t decide if the drawbacks of the hard-boiled lifestyle outweigh the benefits of getting closer to the truth of things. In “After Visiting Friends” Michael Hainey approaches this conundrum by investigating the mysterious death of his journalist father decades earlier. Fearing what he might discover, he delays his inquiry until he is about the same age, 35, as his father was when he died “after visiting friends,” according to his obituary in the Chicago papers where he worked as a chief copy editor (slotman). Digging after the lapse of so many years to find out what really happened, Hainey goes through his family memories, resurrecting such long-distant characters as his quirky grandmother and reconnecting in a more intimate way with his mother. Hainey loved his father, whom he lost while in grade school, and he learns why so many others also loved him, and why they shielded his family from the details of his death.
There are some parts of the book that are well-written, but Michael Hainey descends too often into abrupt, jarring sentences that lack any verbs and good sentence structure. Nevertheless, the last third of the book improved and held my interest to some extent.
All families have secrets, and Michael Hainey's are not that unusual. I can think of other families, including my own, that have much more interesting stories to tell.
And ironically, to free himself from the grips of the ghost of his father, Mr. Hainey becomes his father (although he is often told that he looks exactly likes his dad, but taller) in spirit. That is, Mr. Hainey himself leads a double life from his loved ones: by "visiting friends" of his father to gain the truth he hides this fact from his family . As Mr. Hainey (and we the readers learn) none of the people in this book are good guys or bad guys. And we learn, or maybe most people reading this novel know, that great people are greatly affected by things in the past. Old bonds tend to cloud the true reality of facts, and Michael Hainey does a good job at ensuring objectivity of the whole story, even as the story of his father (and mother) is the story of himself. In this quest, Mr. Hainey's mom is pushed to a minor role, though we come to realize that she is just as important as the father in bringing clarity about life.
Overall, I give this four stars. The family secret was scandalous, but not by 2014 standards. But that isn't what gets the grade here. I docked a star because there were some sections that didn't seem to add anything to the overarching themes. Despite this, Mr. Hainey does an great job in tying the themes important in shaping his soul: religion, the sins of fathers and its effect on the family and loved ones, and duality of fear and empowerment from seeking the truth. Mr. Hainey's writing was terse, and I read nearly 80% of the book in one sitting. Overall, After Visiting Friends is a good read.
Top reviews from other countries
Heartrending memoir of a family whose secrets may have remained so had it not been for the curiousity of one individual. The memoir also reveals that a family member's demise can often be more traumatic for some than others. Hainey, fatherless, at the tender age of six is obviously more affected with the void created by his father's death. Hence, the urge to figure out the reasons the various obituarities do not "match". Moreover, the "silence" of his family members and his father's colleagues does not deter him from seeking the truth about a parent he barely knew.
A gripping memoir that will not be forgotten.
Enjoyed Hainey's writing style. Not all journalists become great authors - this one certainly is.
Has written from the heart. The book is incredible , an insight into his fathers murder , compelling , I couldn,t put it down. Excellent work .