Hainey_AfterVisitingFriendsMichael Hainey is a deputy editor at GQ and in this quietly moving memoir about the death of his father, described throughout the book as “a damn good newspaperman”, he proves that every good writer also has to be a good reporter. At the core of any good piece of writing is the story. You have to flesh out your characters and give it shape but what really matters are the details and as you start to piece the puzzle together you will inevitably uncover secrets. That’s what happens here as long lingering doubts and questions about his father’s death prompt him to re-read the obituaries where he discovers a single phrase that he can’t explain – “after visiting friends.” This sets him off on a journey, determined to find the truth about a man who died when he was six, a man he knows best through faded photographs and by taking apart his wallet and putting it back together so his mother wouldn’t discover it out of place. The writing is simple and honest but gives the reader a distinct sense of time and place both in the present and past. There was something about this story that affected me on a deep, personal level. I found the descriptions of his family  interactions and childhood growing up in the late 70’s very familiar and identified with his struggle to make sense of it all. This is also a story about tracing yourself through the footsteps of your father and the older you get the harder it becomes to deny those similarities. After Visiting Friends is a brave exploration into how missing pieces in a family’s past can have lingering consequences on its future. This must have been an extremely difficult book to write, not to mention publish, and Michael Hainey has certainly won my respect with the work he’s done here. I’m sure his old man would have been proud too.

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