The Life We Bury

  • by Allen Eskens
  • Narrated by Zach Villa
  • 8 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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?


What the Critics Say

"More complications ensue, until the novel's satisfying resolution." (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Clichéd Story and Terrible Writing

Any additional comments?

I am baffled by the 5-star reviews.

The writing style is so sophomoric, I stopped listening twice to check that the book wasn't self-published. Seriously, was this a creative writing class project?

The author's style lacks any real imagery, and awkward similes abound. The narrator is constantly telling us about things instead of describing them as they happen, violating the "show, don't tell" rule. He tells us, "I heard a loud crack" instead of "there was a loud crack." Instead of feeling transported into the story while the author's voice disappears, you are left feeling like you are sitting across from some dude hearing a story secondhand. There is a laughable scene where the main character/college student is talking to the killer and is trying to be all Dirty Harry, spelling out the whole story like the last 45 seconds of an episode of Scooby Doo. You can't hold a girl's hand at a movie, then you're all, "are you feeling lucky, punk?" Um, okay.

The characters lack any real depth, and to attempt to make up for this, the author gives each character a cheesy, trite little back story as shorthand. The girlfriend? Rape victim - that's all you need to know. The mom? Typical irresponsible alcoholic who brings home dirtbag guys. The brother? Autistic - and the description of his autism is so stereotypical as to be offensive. The author just puts "maybe" in front of each of the kid's sentences and the narrator uses a dopey voice for him. The dialogue is stilted and clichéd throughout, and the author uses awkward, unnatural-sounding phrases.

The story itself is full of ridiculous improbabilities, plot holes, and insufficient explanations for the characters' actions.

Some college kid is assigned to write a biography for class, and he can't think of anyone he knows, so he walks into a nursing home and asks if they have any old people who are lucid enough to tell him their life story. Of course, the helpful lady at the front desk is like, "you know, we do have this one guy - he's a convicted rapist, murderer, and arsonist the local prison let out on compassionate release while he waits here to die of cancer - but I'd be happy to let a 21-year-old student he's never even met waltz right into his room and hang out with our resident killer, unsupervised! Huh? And has this woman ever heard of HIPPA?

The old man now wants to clear his name, even though he was previously not too cooperative with his own lawyers. Our narrator Joe is just the guy for the job. Joe and his neighbor-turned-girlfriend get ahold of his case file and set off to interview the witnesses. Of course, after a very brief hesitation, everyone wants to talk to these kids and tell them things they held back 35 years earlier. Even though he's met this cop like twice in his life, the police officer steps in to get him off the hook in another jurisdiction and even drives him home. When one avenue for testing DNA is a no-go, it's not the cop, the lawyer, or the lab guys who come up with a work-around; it's a nurse at the nursing home. Of course, the wheels of justice turn very quickly for these characters and without any hearings. And do these kids ever actually go to school or work?

Somehow, this kid is MacGyver and Bruce Lee rolled into one. He uses found objects to sew a coat and make snow shoes, and he can kick the ass of anyone who upsets his girlfriend or touches his brother. We aren't really sure where he gets his skills, though, the descriptions of the fights he gets into are probably the most detailed scenes in the book. There's nothing psychological going on here, other than a few unnecessary flashbacks to grandpa's death.

Once our intrepid sleuths crack a coded message in the victim's diary, they have the initials of the real killer. They'll need DNA evidence to exonerate the old man, but the kid decides it would be easier if he just shows up on the suspected killer's doorstep to try to get a confession. But there's a (predictable, already been done) twist! Yawn.

This is my first Audible review, but I was so disappointed with this book, I felt I had to warn others.

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- A. J. Freedman

Character driven mystery

Would you consider the audio edition of The Life We Bury to be better than the print version?

Each are good, but hearing the story was wonderful because it was in the first person and offered an emotional glimpse into the complex lives of the characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Life We Bury?

The ending, of course, but also Joe's the relationship with his brother. Touching and unique.

What does Zach Villa bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He provided a real connection to the character, and offered enough diversity of voice that it was clear and easy to get emotionally entrenched in the story. Good job.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Action and mystery based, but very emotional with regard to the characters. It was more a smile often and tears of sentiment.

Any additional comments?

Wonderfully crafted and written, with characters I want to see again! Good resolutions, but not trite at all. I'm recommending it to everyone!

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- Alice

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-09-2015
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio