The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury

A Novel

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:
39
College student Joe Talbert is on a deadline to complete a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography, so Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran—and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, Carl has been medically paroled after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. With the help of Lila, his skeptical neighbor, Joe throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl's conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it's too late to escape the fallout?
Publisher: Amherst, NY : Seventh Street Books ; Prometheus Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781616149987
1616149981
Characteristics: 303 p. ; 21 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

2nd Monday Book Club Discussion: November 2018.


From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment
Tigard_HollyCP Jun 18, 2019

When college journalism student Joe Talbert visits a senior care home to find an interviewee for a class biography assignment, he gets a little more than he bargained for. He is introduced to convicted rapist and murderer, Carl Iverson, who was just released after 30 years in prison because he is dying. Not exactly what he had in mind for a biography, but this will work. Carl promises to be completely honest with his “dying proclamation,” apparently in order to cleanse his soul in preparation for his looming death. But there may be more to Carl than what court records show. How exactly does a war hero become a rapist and murderer anyway? Along with always worrying about whether his mentally ill mother can take care of his 18-year-old autistic brother and the possibility of romance with the girl next door, Joe may have bitten off more than he can chew with this assignment. The book is filled with twists and turns, some a little predictable, but most completely off my radar until they happen. It’s a quick, suspenseful, Grisham-like read (maybe a bit more substantive than most Grisham) that kept me up past midnight. I’ll definitely be reading more Allen Eskens.

e
EmilyEm
May 18, 2019

College student Joe Talbert visits a nursing home in search of a subject for his biography-writing assignment, meeting Carl Iverson, a Vietnam veteran and convict dying of cancer.

Joe comes from Austin, MN. Quite a coincidence the city’s the setting for another book—Hope Jahren’s 'Lab Girl'—read earlier this month. Joe has lots of balls in the air—school, his bouncer job, an autistic younger brother and dysfunctional mother plus an intriguing fellow college woman across the hall. Redemption is clearly the theme of this Edgar-award finalist debut thriller. Quite a journey for these characters. Looking forward to Joe’s next outing in last year’s 'The Shadows We Hide.'

d
darladoodles
Apr 14, 2019

This complex mystery touches on many relevant topics including prison life, terminal illness, alcoholism, sexual abuse, Vietnam, autism and more. I give Eskens credit as it all fits within the 300 pages of the paperback version I read. Fans of "Ordinary Grace" will also find this to be a fascinating read. I also recommend it to my book-loving friends in Minnesota.

c
cluhowy
Feb 07, 2019

A debut novel from Allen Eskens who earned a journalism as well as a law degree. Retired from criminal law after 25 years of practice, he has achieved numerous awards for his writing. He has written 5 novels thus far.
Some readers find the protagonist Joe Talbert, a struggling university student who transforms into a super sleuth while writing an English course biography paper, too far- fetched and unbelievable. Although I can’t argue with this criticism, I am more forgiving. I accept this is a fictional novel rather than a documentary account and allow the author flexibility in terms of plausibility of story/characters.
What is worth noting is Eskens’ sensitivity and compassion in his portrayal of the dysfunctional, one parent family in which Joe Talbert was raised. Talbert’s younger brother is autistic, still lives with his mother, and at 18 years old functions at the level of a 7-year-old. The author does an excellent job of his characterization of a person with this disorder (remember autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it has a complex range of symptoms: mild to severe. ), the neglect and abuse of the alcoholic mother who suffers from untreated bipolar disorder, and the dilemma faced by Talbert who has left home to attend university. Talbert is torn between the love of his brother and the need to leave home to gain a university education and hopefully allow him to rise above the poverty and hopelessness of his life. Esken also does a great job depicting Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam vet who has served 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of his 16-yr. old neighbour. Carl is the subject Talbert chooses for his English course biography assignment. Did dying Carl Iverson rape and murder his 16 yr. old neighbour 30 yrs. ago? Talbert interviews Iverson and begins to dig into the trial documents to determine if Carl could possibly be a monster.
As the reader is drawn into the story of Carl’s traumatic war experiences, we begin to entertain the possibility of Carl’s innocence.
The author touches upon society’s tendency to “a rush to judgement” and the work of the Innocence Project. All in all, I was impressed with this debut novel and give it 5/5 stars. I look forward to more books from this author.

c
ckalland
Apr 25, 2018

The reviewer for Book List said, above, that the premise of this book is forced when a college student becomes a super sleuth. That premise bothered me throughout the book. These 2 college students break open a mystery that no trained investigators could over 30 years? I liked the relationship between the young man and the old man he is interviewing. However, the rest of the book just didn't work for me.

b
BJENFJ
Apr 22, 2018

A good mystery. Suspenseful and moves right along. Led me to read all his other books. Rewarding.

o
orange_lobster_23
Apr 18, 2018

A college student's class assignment to write a brief bio on an interviewee leads to an unexpectedly compelling relationship and investigation of a dying heroic veteran's conviction for a rape/murder decades earlier. As the assignment quickly accelerates into a compelling mission to untangle the truth; the student, Joe Talbot, has to parry his own minefields: his responsibility to his younger autistic brother in the vulnerable care of their alcoholic, destructive mother. A real page-turner!

d
Dreamstime
Mar 22, 2018

A wonderful hero on a journey of redemption in a story that gradually builds in its tempo and discovery. The pace quickens to an exciting final resolution. Joe Talbert is heroic but without superhero capabilities, a young man who has to manage and overcome his own personal challenges. He might not be wearing a cape, but he moves to a strong sense of True North with a superhero heart. This story has cinematic potential and deserves to be given life on the big screen.

s
sonia1896
Mar 06, 2018

A real page-turner! Easy reading, hard to put down. I am a slow reader, but this was very easy to read. Great development of characters, many twists and turns and sweet ending. My kind of book.

b
bearcat836
Jan 23, 2018

I enjoyed the characters and how they developed. A comfortable, easy read. Good suspense, although maybe a little unrealistic in parts, with a fairy tale ending.

View All Comments

Age

Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at CALS

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top