This month, our Book Club has chosen an interesting non-fiction piece which involves family secrets, an untimely death, a mystery, a memoir, and a journey of self-discovery. Michael Hainey relates the incidents which led him to investigate the death of his father when Michael was only six years old. His book is entitled "After Visiting Friends," which is a cryptic title which will become clear later in the story.
Michael and his eight-year-old brother Chris were then raised alone by their mother who never spoke of the death of their father, Bob. On the night that Bob died of a heart attack, his brother Dick was informed by the police of Bob’s death, and Dick, rather than Bob’s wife, Barbara, identified the body. Both Bob and Dick were accomplished newspapermen, and had many acquaintances on the police force.
Chicago Tribune Building
Thirty-five years later, Michael, also a newspaperman, began a quest to learn more about his father’s death, of which he knew very little, except that Bob died while walking home from his late shift at the Chicago Tribune. At the time, Michael was still unmarried, but was seeing a girl, Brooke, who would later become his wife.
Michael knew that his father was a highly regarded newspaperman. He was in charge of the city desk on the late shift that ended at 2 a.m. and all stories had to go through him. Barbara, who also worked at the Tribune where they met, was one of the reporters at the horseshoe-shaped desk where they brought their stories to Bob. The usual routine was to stop at a bar with his fellow workers before starting for home.
City News Desk
In his search for the truth, Michael was given names of people who had known his father or worked with him. It seemed to him that nobody wanted to talk about that night. Michael was always pleased when someone would say “You look a lot like your father.” One person said that Bob was walking home “after visiting friends,” a fact that had never been mentioned before. In fact, the newspaper account gave no indication that Bob had varied from his usual routine of leaving work at 2 a.m. and walking home.
There seemed to be a code of silence among Bob’s friends who could not remember the facts about that night. Piece by piece, Michael put together the meager events of that night, until one man told him the truth he had been seeking for his whole life.
Michael was certain that his mother never knew exactly how Bob died. She did not seem to want to know. His dilemma now was to decide whether he should be the one to break the news to her.
It was easy for me to relate to this story which took place in the 60’s and 70’s and up to the present day. It was not so easy to picture a fatherless boy trying to resurrect some memories of his dad from people who were uneasy with the topic. I finished to book in two days, staying after each cliffhanger chapter to find out what was coming next.
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(price as of Dec 8, 2014)