After Visiting Friends

A Son's Story

After Visiting Friends

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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451676563 | 
  • February 2013
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AFTER VISITING FRIENDS: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey

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.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for After Visiting Friends includes an introduction and discussion questions. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


After Michael Hainey’s uncle knocked on the back door one morning to tell his young mother that her husband, Bob Hainey, had died the past night near his car on Chicago’s North Side, the six-year-old Michael and his older brother Chris learned to grow up without a dad. Michael spends his childhood absorbing the quiet wisdom of his single mother and nurturing his own ambition to follow in his father’s footsteps as a newspaperman. Then when he reaches thirty-five, the age his father was when he died, Michael puts his own skills as a reporter to use investigating inconsistencies surrounding Bob Hainey’s death. In his quest for truth amidst the past newsrooms of Chicago he uncovers an enduring allegiance between his father’s old buddies, but more importantly discovers new love and admiration for his mother.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. On the first page of After Visiting Friends, Michael Hainey’s grandmother tells him of family stories: “There’s lots of stories you haven’t heard.” What are some see more

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About the Author

Michael Hainey
Photograph by Mark Seliger

Michael Hainey

Michael Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ. He was born in Chicago and now lives in Manhattan.