Book Review: After Visiting Friends

After Visiting Friends: A Son's StoryAfter Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young father dies mysteriously “after visiting friends” and a son goes on a lifelong quest to find out what really happened. Sounds like something that might be the basis for a TV cop drama but it is the unfortunately story of Michael Hainey’s life.

The seedy underbelly of old world newspapermen is exposed. Harsh family secrets come to light. A son asks questions that nobody will answer; not friends or family, even his own mother is mute. So Hainey does what any good report does: he goes to find the answers himself no matter what the cost.

At the risk of sounding harsh, I’m on the fence about the actual content of this book. It wasn’t anything ground breaking or exciting. It was sadly predictable and from the moment I read the obituary I knew what Michael would find at the end of his journey. I would have put the book down unfinished if not for one thing: Hainey’s writing style. Holy buckets.

There is a section where Hainey writes about the “Dead Fathers Club” He invokes images of a young boy standing on the steps of a church while men carry a coffin, his father’s coffin, to a waiting hearse. The writing in this section and throughout the whole book is hard, gritty, and at the same time so very beautiful and moving.

Never before have I felt the need to finish a book I disliked simply because of the words. I stopped reading and immersed myself in the melody and flow of the words on the page. Everything was a poem: from obituaries to funerals, life and death, a mother’s stunted love and the blossoming love of a new father and his son. It was a story of a tragic and ugly death but somehow the flowing beauty in the river of words created hope and life.

The story is nothing extraordinary, but the telling of it is.

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