Sunday, October 19, 2014

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey

Author: Michael Hainey
Publisher: Scribner
Date of publication: February 2013

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.

So, I did it, I tried another memoir type book. After Visiting Friends is the story about the author's attempt to find the true story behind his father's death.  As an adult he notices inconsistencies in the obituaries and the explanation given to his mother by his uncle for how his father died.  Over the next few years, Michael uses his investigation skills to get to the truth.

The book ended up being just an OK read for me.  For one, I thought it was a little longer than it needed to be.  The author's tends to ramble on about the his childhood often switching gears abruptly.  I was hoping for something more intriguing than what I got in the book.  The truth of what happened the night he died was kind of underwhelming and I guessed it about halfway through the book. That was disappointing.  I did feel bad for Mr. Hainey though.  I thought his father's newspaper friends took loyalty a little too far in hiding the truth from the family, especially after so many years had passed.

I think fans of books like this one will enjoy it.  But, don't go into the book expecting a major mystery.  Instead you will find a book about a man who lost his father too soon and his trying to reconcile that man he though his father was with the man he turned out to be.

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