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The Life We Bury

Written by: Allen Eskens
Narrated by: Zach Villa
Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (201 ratings)

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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?

©2014 Allen Eskens (P)2015 Tantor

What the critics say

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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excellent

bought this book as it was on sale while I waited for my monthly credit. It is one of my favorites so far. I highly recommend it.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Well written story, very well narrated,

Good book, one of the best narratives I've listened to. A good mystery novel. Enjoy.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The Life We Bury

This is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to in a long time. The performance of this book was outstanding. I didn’t want to stop listening.
I think this book would appeal to a large audience as it covers a wide spectrum of emotions along with the suspense.
The narrator made the difference in the enjoyment and in finishing this book !!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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First Audible Book...Fantastic Delivery

This was my first ever audiobook and I was fairly impressed with the quality of the performance. Zach Villa did an absolutely wonderful job with his tone and pace. He seamlessly switched between characters voices without sounding inauthentic to the characters. It really lent to a stronger sense of willing suspension of disbelief as a listener. While the story itself took odd turns, especially towards the end, making for an exciting listen, the middle did feel a little dull in comparison. Overall, it was a great purchase- I throughly enjoyed it! #Audible1

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it.

I was vey invested in the characters. Although I guessed some of the plot I felt like I couldn't stop listening. Thoroughly enjoyed the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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very worthwhile use of time!

A little long, but really great listen if you've got a long drive and want to just enjoy a great story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Spellbinding!

Could not put this book down. I felt the hopelessness, anger and frustration of the main character, Joe.
Makes you think about what is true and what your mind thinks may be true!
Interesting depiction of personal character attributes ~ both good and evil and just plain flawed ~
Insightful view of alcoholic family life.
Insightful view of sibling responsibility and love.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Strong start but fizzled

I really liked this story at the beginning. The narrator was great and I found it hard to stop listening. However, it quickly became predictable and far fetched and I found the story moved in a direction that lost my interest. Last chunk of the book wasn’t as gripping for me and it dawned on me just how often the author used: “she said”, “he said” and “I said” after nearly every statement. Again, strong start with a great premise for a book but, for me, the plot turned into a bit of a letdown.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good read

Had a bit of depth to it; albeit seems like it is geared towards a mature young reader, rather than an adult. The protagonist is in his first year at college, so the tone is fitting. I liked that it had a bit of everything; mystery, history, psychology, thriller, social issues and romance (although I could have done without the latter). The narrator was just right for the book as his narration allowed the story to flow without being overly dramatic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing narration.

Excellent book. The performance is the best I've ever heard! I will definitely read look for more by this author and narrator.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lori
  • 2015-12-14

Good listen!

For a bargain book, this was pretty good. I usually stick with cozy mysteries because I don't like the violence in normal ones, and this one does get pretty graphic. But the mystery was good, kept me listening (on 1.5 speed). I bought the book because it takes place in Minnesota, where I grew up, and where else am I going to read, "The tufts of hair stood out of my head in all directions, like I'd been cowlicked by a drunken heifer" but in a book taking place in the midwest?

The main character, Joe, was likable from the beginning, he just had this authentic feel to him, and when I found out his backstory, I liked him even more. The same is true with the girl who lived next door to him. They both had some baggage, but neither one of them let it get them down much, or if they did, admitted to themselves they were doing it and accepted that. That was kind of refreshing.

The relationship between Joe and his brother was really sweet and added a layer to the story that made it all that much more worth listening to.

The narrator was really good, perfect choice for the voice of Joe.

287 of 310 people found this review helpful

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  • Olivia
  • 2016-04-07

Gripping

This book covers a lot of ground including alcoholism, autism, rape, murder, prison, cancer, hospice, Vietnam, PTSD, and young love. Suffice it to say I that I was impressed the author managed to fit so much into 8.5 hours of listening time. It's a coming of age story about college student Joe who, while coming to terms with serious family responsibilities, must also undertake what initially seems like a simple college assignment but soon opens a can of worms with enormous implications for a man dying of cancer. Wrong vs. right, death vs. life, guilt vs. innocence, the truth vs. deceit and misinformation, conviction vs. exoneration are some of the many themes that are skillfully interwoven throughout the story. Though much of the material was dark and heavy, the narrative was a also refreshingly light and funny at times.

The narrator did a really great job - his voice was perfect for the main character and he also seemed to nail the voices of the other characters.

It was hard to stop listening to and I look forward to more from both the author and narrator!

116 of 127 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2016-01-12

Flawless Narration


The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens is a great example of a novel enhanced by audible narration. The book is more than it would have been without Zach Villa, who is the voice of the main character, Joe. So impressive.

This is the story of Joe and his younger autistic brother who grew up with a worthless mother. The alcoholic mother becomes a ball and chain for Joe as he enters his adult life. Joe survives, though not without scars.

Joe's life is enhanced by meeting a convicted felon who is dying, and who agrees to tell Joe the the events surrounding his incarceration. A story he has never told before.

The Life We Bury is beautifully written, though predictable as far as a mystery goes. The conclusion, though no surprise, is exactly what the reader hopes it will be.

171 of 193 people found this review helpful

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  • Raymond
  • 2016-01-02

One of the Best I've listened to in 15 years!

What did you love best about The Life We Bury?

The story was compelling. About a dying man who spent 30 years in prison, a student and friend who were driven to investigate and in mortal danger for their efforts, a great narrator who captured all the events of the lives in this complex story. Great listen, great story, very surprising end.

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

The end was entirely surprising.

Have you listened to any of Zach Villa’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but will certainly look for more books by this narrator.

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

The emotional build up was amazing. The dying man's honesty, the student's family, mother, brother, revealed the character of this student. The girl friend who came along side the student. All were people with flaws, all were (accept the miserable mother) incredibly honest and likable.

Any additional comments?

I've been a listener since Audible came public in 1999 and this is without question one of the best books I've heard.

34 of 38 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sara
  • 2016-09-19

Not Your Average Thriller

This fast paced thriller was good because it was multidimensional with characters that were fully developed and explored through the story. So often, thrillers are peopled by cookie cutter characters and purposefully vague storytelling. Eskens does a good job telling a story that holds the interest and for the most part is believable. There were just a few bits that stretched my suspension of disbelief--but not enough to cause me to stop listening.

To me, the narration was good. The writing engaging. There was moderate amount of discussion and action involving violence and disturbing themes. Recommended if you like cold case style crime solving done by nonprofessional "detectives"/researchers. In the end, an attention grabbing page turner.

73 of 83 people found this review helpful

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  • Alice
  • 2015-10-05

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!

174 of 203 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Christi B
  • 2015-12-03

Figured it out but couldn't quit listening

This was a very well written and captivating story. I found it just reading other reviews and was quite pleased with the choice. The performance of the book was great also. I have to admit that I had the mystery figured out early in the book but it didn't make me want want to stop listening. I can't wait for this authors next piece

109 of 133 people found this review helpful

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  • Marsha Clark
  • 2015-10-16

Good, easy read

This book had a little bit of romance,, little bit of a twist, good plot and the author was never confusing. Generally a good read, except two dark sub-plots that distrubed me as a reader. It had to be in the story, but was just a little darker than I like to be exposed to. A little foul language which might offend some people.

133 of 165 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Richard Delman
  • 2016-01-15

A very enjoyable first effort by both

If you could sum up The Life We Bury in three words, what would they be?

Suspense; excellent characters

What did you like best about this story?

The blend of author and narrator is just right. I had never heard of either of these guys before, and they are a good team. The plot is complicated. It involves Carl, an old man who has spent thirty years in prison for raping and killing a fourteen-year-old girl; Joe, a college student who writes a school assignment about Carl; Lila, who lives across the hall from Joe and becomes his partner in what becomes an extremely well-written suspense novel. There are lots of twists and turns, and a large cast of characters in Minnesota, many of them law enforcement officers who combine efforts to hunt down the ... I won't spoil the ending for you, but suffice it to say that once you are involved, you are caught up in the story and with the people.

Which scene was your favorite?

I enjoyed the process of Joe and Lila falling in love while they managed to solve the 30-year-old murder under a chilling deadline: Carl is dying of cancer in a nursing home, having been given a compassionate parole very near his death.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I am really not good at this sort of thing, but if you insist...The pressure of time, a very old crime with a very new solution.

Any additional comments?

I hope that these two gentlemen continue working together. As I said above, they are a good team, and that is not an easy thing to pull off when you are new to the process of writing and producing an audiobook. There are lots of not-so-good ones. This one is very good.

54 of 69 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Paula
  • 2015-10-18

Is this Nancy Drew Meets a Hardy Boy?

Don't get me wrong, I rather liked this book. The narration was superb, lulling me to staying with this one until I finished it in just over two days. However, there were moments when I thought I was listening to an old Nancy Drew meets a Hardy Boy mystery. It was just a little simplistic, unrealistic, predictable to my way of thinking. It is an easy listen, has a few twists and turns as mysteries go, and has a somewhat pleasant ending. Yes, I mostly liked it, but a little more mystery to it all would have been welcome.

83 of 111 people found this review helpful