A young reporter goes in search of his long-lost, deceased father.
“There’s lots of stories you haven’t heard," said the narrator's mother when he asked about an unfamiliar family anecdote. But GQ deputy editor Hainey wanted to hear them all. When his father died suddenly one spring day in 1970, he left behind two boys, a wife and a trail of questions that no one wanted to answer for Hainey. For years, the family danced silently around the subject of his father, until the author decided to track down whatever true story was left of him. It was the obituary that set him off: His father allegedly died "after visiting friends," but who were they? Who was with him in his final hours? With medical records and a few shaky, secondhand accounts from his father's former co-workers, a tight-lipped crew of old-time Chicago newspapermen, Hainey hoped to fill the gaps between what he had always been told and what it seemed might actually be true. His personal investigation took him across the country and into strangers' lives, but the most difficult and hard-won part of the journey was his gradual, intimate understanding of his mother and brother. Hainey's writing is balletic, nimbly avoiding both sentimentality and sensationalism, making grief and absence into powerful and fully felt forces. His short scenes appear like flashes of memory, prose poems of what once was, and he skillfully weaves a narrative that transcends his own and spans generations. From family history to Chicago lore, Hainey searches the deepest fissures of memory and finds a hidden and entire "world of men, of stories, of knowledge" that wasn't there before.
Part elegy, part mystery and wholly unforgettable.