Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher

Visiting Hours by Amy ButcherI finished Visiting Hours by Amy Butcher last night, and I still don’t know exactly how i feel about it. The real-life premise is stunning: in college one of Butcher’s best friends commits a horrific and grizzly murder. Seriously. Put yourself in her shoes. How do you move on from such an event? That is what Visiting Hours is about – Butcher trying to piece together her life in the immediate aftermath of the crime and in the years following it.

Spreading awareness of mental illness seeps from every page of Visiting Hours and really drives the book.  Butcher’s friend Kevin was suffering from depression and coming off some anti-depressants when he committed the murder. Both of these factors may have contributed to why it happened. Years after the event, Butcher herself was diagnosed suffered from on-going depression and was diagnosed with PTSD.

And as much as Butcher wants to work towards destigmatizing mental illness, she draws attention to how she fails to do so at a number of points in the book. Kevin had attempted suicide in college and afterwards Butcher and friends didn’t talk about it, didn’t offer any concrete help. It is something that is hard to do – suicide isn’t something society is accustomed to talking about. Without a model, how do you go about doing it?

Throughout the book Butcher is searching for answers to why this grizzly crime happened when, ultimately, there is no sufficient answer. That may be why I found the book a little unsatisfying. There is no resolution, and in many ways there can’t be. There is no conclusion that could explain everything away when a basically normal human being commits the unimaginable.

Who would like this book? Although I haven’t read Through The Glass by Shannon Moroney, that is the book that immediately popped into my head as I was reading Visiting Hours. Both deal with unthinkable crimes committed by an individual the authors loved and trusted. Visiting Hours also fits nicely alongside other memoirs dealing with mental illness such as Brain on Fire (review) by Susannah Cahalan.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.


  1. Thanks for writing a review of this book. In my memoir reading, I tend toward the funny, the beautiful, or the conventionally sad, very rarely picking up anything with the word “grizzly” in the description. But I think memoirs like this are incredibly important, to be written and to be read. Because there are sides of life that we’d like to believe don’t exist but do and that we need to be aware of, if only so we can be better helpers to those around us. The shocking nature of this memoir’s subject reminds me a little of The Other Side of Charm by H.G. Beverly, about the way her publicly charming husband was in private an abusive sociopath destructive of her lives and those of her children, and no one would believe it. It takes a fair dose of courage to read memoirs like these, but I do believe it’s worth it for the reality check.

  2. Wow – I agree with Leah, this sounds fascinating! Beyond being shocked, I have no idea how I would react if a friend of mine committed a crime like that. Thanks for your review; now, if I pick it up, I’ll be able to go into it knowing that there isn’t a concrete resolution (which totally makes sense to me).

  3. Well, this sounds very fascinating, especially seeing as you compared it with Brain on Fire, which I loved and hit close to home for me. I have no idea how I would handle a situation like that – if one of my close friends went and committed murder or even suicide. I doubt there’s any kind of coming back from it – PTSD is probably what would ail me too.

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