Came Highly Recommended
5 out of 5 stars
Allen Eskens’ The Life We Bury came highly recommended by a former co-worker of mine and having now finished it myself, I wholeheartedly second her sentiments. I’m almost ashamed to admit how long it sat on my digital “bookshelf” awaiting a listen–I truly had no idea what I was missing.
The story opens with college student Joe Talbert desperately seeking a subject for his English class biography project. When he visits a nursing home and asks if any residents might be available for an interview, Joe is introduced to Carl Iverson, a Vietnam veteran who was recently medically paroled after spending several decades in prison for the rape and murder of a young girl. As his conversations with Carl progress, Joe becomes increasingly suspicious of the facts as they had been presented in Court and begins to wonder what Carl is hiding and what really happened to the young girl so many years ago. Is Carl innocent? If so, who killed her? And why did Carl so willingly serve time for a crime he may not have committed? Joe gains access to the trial file and begins his own quest for justice, hoping to exonerate Carl before he passes away. With the help of his neighbor Lila, Joe juggles the investigation, the completion of his biography assignment, his job, and caring for his autistic brother Jeremy with a good deal of success.
The characters in this mystery are so well developed that at times, I forgot I was reading (listening to) a piece of fiction. Joe, Lila, Carl, and Jeremy are immediately likable–I felt a great deal of empathy for Joe, Jeremy, and Carl at various points throughout the story and admired Lila for her compassion. Joe and Jeremy share a special bond, one that many who have siblings can likely relate to, while Lila has a heart of gold and a healthy dose of curiosity. The family dynamics in this story add drama to an already intriguing story and the dialogue is great. The plot is well paced. It’s driven by an urgency to solve the puzzle before Carl runs out of time but doesn’t feel rushed.
Zach Villa’s narration was amazing, helping listeners connect to the characters on a more visceral level. The only downside to having such a great narrator is that it can make listening to your next read a little less exciting! After listening to The Life We Bury, I had a hard time picking a story to listen to next.
I was excited to see that Esken’s wrote a sequel to The Life We Bury (The Shadows We Hide) and brought Villa back to narrate once again. I am sincerely looking forward to more of Joe, Lila, and Jeremy but appreciate the way The Life We Bury ended. I think Eskens gave readers enough closure to move on, making it a great stand-alone piece, but made his characters so lovable that you might not want to. Stay tuned for a review on The Shadows We Hide.
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Narrator: Zach Villa
Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
Published by Tantor Audio on June 9th 2018
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College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran-and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home 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. Aided by his skeptical neighbor, Lila, Joe throws himself into uncovering the truth. Thread by thread, he begins to unravel 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?