After Visiting Friends

Hainey, Michael. After Visiting Friends: a Son’s Story. New York: Scribner, 2013.

Like any good reporter, Michael Hainey (who actually works for GQ) wants the truth, especially when the truth as he knows it is full of strange inconsistencies; even more so when the truth involves the details surrounding the tragic death of his own father,
Michael was only six years old when his father, respected newspaper man Bob Hainey, died of an apparent heart attack “after visiting friends.” What friends, Michael has always wondered. Even more curious – friends and family are tight lipped about that night and the details in different newspapers don’t add up. Pretty ironic for a newspaper man’s obituary. Was it really a heart attack when another reputable paper called it a cerebral hemorrhage?
Growing up, no wanted to talk to Michael about that night, no matter how many times he asked. As an adult Michael decided to write a book about his father and in doing so provided people with the opening to start talking. Little by little Michael finally uncovers the truth. What he discovers is not earth shattering for the rest of the world. These things happen all the time. But, back then there was a different kind of fierce loyalty between friends, family, and even newspaper men.
Throughout Michael’s investigation he is forced to consider and examine his relationships with family. His grandmother, with whom he has always felt a special bond; his brother, now a family man himself; his mother who has always kept a stiff upper lip and refused to show weakness; and lastly, his father, the hero he wanted to be like who turned out to be human after all.

It is fair to say that I couldn’t put this down. How terrible is it to have a haunting that lasts your entire childhood? What is worse is the truth; forcing yourself to not only be responsible for uncovering it but accepting it as well.

Death does funny things to us. While reading After Visiting Friends I found myself thinking Hainey was unraveling and revealing my innermost thoughts. I, too, lost my father to a cerebral hemorrhage. I, too, have looked for my father in the faces of strangers, in the eyes of other men on the street. I, too, expect to see him anywhere and everywhere. “You never accept the truth that they are dead. You can’t. You won’t” (p 129). Exactly. I hated Hainey for pointing out the obvious, that if ever I met my father on the street I would not fall to my knees grateful for his return, his life restored. Instead, hurtful and pitiful, I would casting a blaming eye and ask why he left.



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