The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury

The Life We Bury 

The Life We Bury is a book from Allen Eskens that I just finished reading. What originally caught my attention about this book was the title. The Life We Bury just spoke to me. Because we all have secrets. 

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Have you read The Life We Bury yet? Come on in and let me tell you about it! 

About The Life We Bury 

“College student Joe Talbert is on a deadline to complete a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography, so Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. 

There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran – and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, Carl has been medically paroled 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. With the help of Lilia, his skeptical neighbor, Joe 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 in the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?”

The Life We Bury
Carl the Sloth reading The Life We Bury

Thoughts on The Life We Bury 

Based on the blurb on the back of the book that you just read, I was already hooked. It seemed like a fantastic suspenseful thriller. But this book was not what I was expecting, to say the least! It has some interesting twists and turns, that not only got me thinking, it made me cry a couple of times. Which is difficult to make me tear up when it comes to books or movies. I’m not a crier, by any stretch of the imagination. 

One of the most interesting topics in the book was the difference between killing and murder. Is there a difference? Is that even a thing? I maintain the answer is yes, but that is simply based on my own experiences. I appreciate that this specific topic in the book made me think about that. 

Another interesting point in the book is perspective. One item in evidence in the case against Carl Iverson was him buying a gun the day of the crime. But the truth is that the gun was meant for himself. It’s hard not to give everything away, but he says that prison was a lifesaver for him. Otherwise Carl wouldn’t be alive now, as he intended to take his own life that fateful day. Instead he is sitting next to Joe, telling him stories of his life and time in Vietnam. 

A prominent theme in the book is dysfunctional family and how it can disrupt a life someone is trying to build and get away from. But do we really get away from those people or that life? Or is it simply something that we all try to push under a rug and hope it is never noticed? 

One big overall theme that really resonated with me is that everything happens for a reason. It is clear from reading this book, just how true that is. That everything we do in life shapes the future, and it happens as it is meant to. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is the way we planned, or even that it is fair. But it is still meant to happen. This wasn’t explicitly talked about in the book, but it was still something I noticed. 

At first I was disappointed that Joe didn’t spend more time talking to Carl and visiting with him. That solving or re-opening the case and reading the police and court files were more important somehow. But why? Why wouldn’t the story of Carl Iverson be the most important aspect? I wanted so much more in that regard. But once it started to make sense and the truth came out, it was obvious why and how these aspects were all connected. 

The Life We Bury
Carl the Sloth likes The Life We Bury from Allen Eskans

Final Thoughts on The Life We Bury 

Allen Eskens managed to weave the stories of Carl Iverson and Joe Talbert together in a much more seamless way than I was expecting, and it was impressive. It did take a little bit for it all to make sense. If you are reading this book or just starting, please be patient with it. The book seems insane in the beginning, and things escalate very quickly. But it really does have a purpose to it. 

I would highly recommend giving this book a read! The title alone was thought-provoking. I certainly appreciate anything that really makes me contemplate my own beliefs and thoughts on any subject, and I certainly achieved that after reading The Life We Bury. 

I would not recommend it for kids though. Maybe 16-17, but not any younger. I say that because The Life We Bury covers a variety of topics. The book covers alcohol abuse, mental illness, broken families, rape, arson, murder, veterans and their service, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and even domestic violence. The Life We Bury really is worth taking the time to read though. Even with the sensitive nature of these topics I listed. 

The Life We Bury
The Life We Bury


Have you read The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens? If so, please tell me your thoughts in the comments. 

If you’ve enjoyed this review and are looking for your next great read, please visit my favorite books section and let me help you out. 

About 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.

Purchasing The Life We Bury

If you are interested in buying the paperback version of The Life We Bury, click here.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.

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The Life We Bury
The Life We Bury


  • Kelly Martin

    I haven’t heard of The Life We Bury before. I always like reading your book reviews because they introduce me to books that I wouldn’t normally come across or think to read.

  • Kat

    This sounds like such a powerful and thought provoking read. I haven’t heard of this author before, but your review definitely piqued my curiosity. As others have commented, it is not a book I might otherwise come across, but it certainly sounds very intriguing.

  • Britt K

    This sounds like a really interesting read. I am always looking for books that will make me stop and think while touching me on some deeper level than just the words on the page – and it sounds like this book will do just that! I’ll check it out.

  • Dreams Abroad

    The Life We Bury is a really good debut novel. Fun mystery with likable characters and some good twists and turns. I loved Lila and Joe! You need to be able to suspend disbelief for this one.

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