The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury

by Allen Eskens

Overview: 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. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, 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?

Julia McDermott (02/07/16): I was pulled into this story about a college age man with an autistic brother and an alcoholic mother, who sets out to find the truth about a dying elderly man who is a Viet Nam vet and who was convicted of murder decades ago. I met the author last fall and his descriptions about the story and the research he did for it drew me to it. The story flowed well, but parts of it were gratuitous and a bit much for me - didn't add much to the story. That said, I felt it was well written. But I also found it predictable, and didn't relate to some of the minor characters, and felt that parts of the story were contrived.
Rating: ***

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