After Visiting Friends

A Son's Story

After Visiting Friends

This haunting story of a son’s quest to understand the mystery of his father’s death is “searing and unforgettable…memoir writing at its best” (San Francisco Chronicle)—a “powerfully affecting” (O, The Oprah Magazine) portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets.

“Family? Secrets? Sometimes I think they are the same thing.” So writes Michael Hainey in this unforgettable story of a son’s search to discover the decades-old truth about his father’s mysterious death. Hainey was a boy of six when his father, a bright and shining star in the glamorous, hard-living world of 1960s Chicago newspapers, died under mysterious circumstances. His tragic absence left behind not only a young widow and two small sons but questions about family and truth that would obsess Michael for decades.

Years later, Michael undertakes a risky journey to uncover the true story about what happened to his father. Prodding reluctant relatives and working through a network of his father’s old colleagues, Michael begins to reconcile the father he lost with the one he comes to know. At the heart of his quest is his mother, a woman of courage and tenacity—and a steely determination to press on with her life. A universal story of love and loss and the resilience of family in the face of hardship, After Visiting Friends is the account of a son who goes searching for his father, and in the journey discovers new love and admiration for his mother.


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.&# see more

Articles About This Book

Off the shelf vertical blog post

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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.