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?
It is with a lot of trepidation that Joe Talbert makes his way into the hospital room where Carl Iverson is located. He has been released from prison because he is dying of cancer.
Joe is the hapless twenty-year-old trying to go to college while working as a bar bouncer. He left town where his mother and eighteen-year-old brother live to escape the daily drama with his vitriolic, alcoholic mother. He is tightly connected to his autistic brother, Jeremy, who remains no older than a child and has limited verbal skills.
Joe finds himself coming up on due date for a biographical assignment for one of his classes and having no one close he can interview tries a nursing home thinking the residents would have lots of stories. He is eventually steered to Carl Iverson.
There are several layers in this well-plotted narrative. The story of Carl, a Vietnam veteran who lived next door to the young girl raped and murdered, and Joe, the young man who took on the responsibility of his brother. The loving care he provides his brother with such patience tears at the heart. The story of Jeremy’s autism and the struggle with both his mother and his mother’s offensive boyfriend is gripping.
Being torn in several directions, Joe’s school and the job he must keep to pay for it, the care of his brother a constant distraction, and the growing backstory of Carl is painful and beautiful at the same time. Your heart aches for Joe. Then there comes a light in his life—a new neighbor—who becomes a friend and then more. Lila has her own horrific backstory, is tender with Jeremy, patient, and understanding.
Joe discovers quickly that there may be much more to Carl’s story than initially received. The murder took place thirty years ago, the political climate so different; there are holes in the story, and then Virgil provides another view of Carl altogether. And Joe begins to suspect a wrongful conviction.
The author is an amazing storyteller. The complex plot is well-paced, the characters immensely empathetic, damaged, doing the best they can. And in the face of the odds, the best they can do is remarkable.
The narrator had an incredible novel to relate and he did so in spades—providing voices of the young man, the dying man, and the other characters—providing the anguish or the loathing where appropriate, ramping up the blood pressure or wheedling sympathy.
An engaging and soul-satisfying narrative read beautifully with just the right emotional level. Totally recommended.
I downloaded a copy of this audiobook from my local well-stocked library. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Amateur Sleuths, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Listening Length: 8 hrs 23 mins
Narrator: Zach Villa
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Life We Bury [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
The Author: Allen Eskens grew up in the wooded hills of Missouri and, after high school, migrated north to pursue his education. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. He honed his creative writing skills in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University and took classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
The Narrator: Zach Villa is a bicoastal stage, film, and television performer. Classically trained in acting at Interlochen Arts Academy and the Juilliard School, Zach’s audiobook work includes multiple fantasy series, The World Without You by Joshua Henkin, and Butterfly Winter by W. P. Kinsella. When he isn’t voicing a goblin or knight, Zach is writing and recording music. [Tantor Audio]
Zach Villa is an American actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, and musician. Villa was born in Clinton, Iowa in 1987. Wikipedia
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