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.
Michael Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ. He was born in Chicago and now lives in Manhattan.
“[A] searing and unforgettable memoir…Simply put, After Visiting Friends is memoir writing at its best…Gut wrenching, riveting and touching.”
-James McGrath Morris
“Hainey’s words are clear, swift, colorful, precise, sometimes devastating.”
“[A] powerfully affecting memoir…”
“A gripping real-life mystery…Michael Hainey has written a heartbreaking book, a page-turner that spurs the reader forward.”
“A well-reported story beautifully told. [Michael Hainey’s] father could only be proud.”
“After Visiting Friends is full of love for the lost world of nocturnal newspaper work and after-hours boozing.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”