Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Pub. Date: June 5th, 2015
Narrator: Zach Villa
Length: 8 hours, 24 minutes

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Mystery / Thriller


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 Did I Think of the Story?

I've seen this book a number of times online and, while I thought it sounded pretty good, the chance to pick up a copy just didn't seem to come up. Then I saw it available to download on my library's Overdrive account (which, anyone who uses Overdrive will know, is sometimes a rarity as there never seem to be enough copies available) and knew this was the perfect time to snag a copy.  So download the audiobook I did and I started listening to it right away on my commute. While there were aspects of the audiobook I wasn't crazy about, the story overall ended up being quite good.

My biggest issue with the audiobook, at least at first, was the narrator (Zach Villa). When the story began his voice and cadence were so monotone and boring that I almost gave up all together. However, he actually did a pretty great job of changing up the timbre and emotion of his voice during the dialogue, which I found so interesting as most narrators I've come across have had more trouble successfully pulling off the latter than the former. So persist I did and I am so happy I did because the actual story was thrilling and the narration improved as the story progressed.

My favorite aspect of the story, which I didn't expect at all, was the sweet relationships between some of these characters, especially between Joe and his autistic brother. Seeing Joe try to protect his brother from their selfish and cruel mom while also trying to move away and better his life was quite touching and felt very realistic given the pretty horrible circumstances Joe found himself in. So many of the characters - nearly all of them really - had been through some horrific situations and this in-depth look at these scars and triumphs that can either build or destroy a person and seeing how our particular characters either retain their humanity no matter what or become bad people was fascinating.

This being said, the actual mystery and thriller aspects of The Life We Bury were wonderful as well. Watching Joe and his neighbor weed through the inconsistencies between Carl's story and what they find in the court files and trying to pick up the crumbs of what really happened as Joe puts together the pieces kept me wanting to listen to more and more of the story so I could figure out what really happened. And once we do discover the truth the real danger picks up for Joe and his loved ones and the breakneck speed of the narrative left me quite breathless.

I won't give away the ending but I will say that I loved it! While I might have enjoyed this one a little more if I had physically read it instead of listening to it, either way it became quite touching and exciting in turns. It's so much more than simply a thriller and is also an excellent look at grief, regret, atonement, and fighting to find the truth about people even if that truth is sometimes ugly. It's about coming to terms with the life you live in and not trying to run away or hide from it. I'll be looking out for more from this author for sure. 

What Did I Think of the Cover?

To be honest, it's plainer than the typical cover I gravitate towards. That being said, the cover fits the book perfectly.  It's stark, cold, and harsh, much like the actions and consequences the characters deal with within the story. It's an honest and unadorned sort of cover and, having finished the story, I've grown to kind of like it. Definitely not something that would make me stop in my tracks but perfect for this particular story.

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

I borrowed the audiobook version of The Life We Bury from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are mine alone. You can find more about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy yourself, on Goodreads HERE.


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