There are 2 universal truths in this world regarding families: families always have secrets and people outside of your family will always be interested in finding out those secrets. I’m just coming off a busy weekend, surrounded by family, celebrating my brother’s wedding and The 4th of July. Two of my favorite family tidbits came up during our family BBQ before all the wedding festivities began. 1.) Relatives of mine are responsible for the first divorce in Ohio. 2.) Some relative of mine once got kicked out of the Cleveland area due to suspicion of being a prostitute. Yes, my family is very fun and kind of crazy. Those are the only family secrets I feel comfortable sharing in writing. Which is probably one reason I didn’t really like After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey.
Title: After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story
Author: Michael Hainey
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Michael Hainey’s father died as he was walking alone on the street after visiting friends when Hainey was 6 years old. At least this was the story that had been told to him all his life. It is even the story repeated in obituaries printed in a several different newspapers. Hainey believes this story to have too many holes, and having grown up to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a reporter, he investigates the story to discover what actually happened that night.
The beginning of this story reads as part memoir and part mystery. It is pretty clear from the beginning that someone is hiding something. Without giving away too much, part of my disappointment in reading this story was that I didn’t find the truth to be all that interesting. I’m sure it was devastating to Hainey, his mother and brother but, as someone who is a complete stranger, the mystery set up at the beginning made me think there would be more to the story. I think the setting of 1960’s Chicago and Hainey’s father being a newspaperman also led me to jump to conclusions about how he really died.
It seems odd to criticize this part of the book since it is non-fiction and one cannot help if the way they die is not interesting to a reader. But my interest waned in the story after finding out what really happened. The last part of the book I felt lagged even though there were answers to be found there as well. I just could not get past why Hainey would write a book about his father’s death after finding out the truth. It feels like the mere act of airing out your dead father’s dirty laundry would hurt your family more than not knowing the whole truth. This and the fact that the book seriously meanders across time to the point where I was confused occasionally made me only sort of like this book. I didn’t love it. But if you want to be a “nosy neighbor”, this book is worth a read.