Obviously I really like this book - a lot. Before I start waxing enthusiastically, let me tell you what The Life We Bury is about:
College student Joe Talbert is on 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 Lila, 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 into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it's too late to escape the fallout?
I was into this book from the beginning. But it definitely picked up steam as it went along. Normally I list what I like by number. But I'm going to mix it up this time. I will use dashes instead!
- I usually form emotional connections with individuals. This time, though, my emotional connections were with couples - Joe and Lila, Joe and Carl, Joe and Jeremy, Lila and Jeremy, Lila and Carl, etc. Well, you get the idea. This is definitely unusual for me.
- The Life We bury crosses a number of genres - literary fiction, historical fiction (the section on Vietnam seems very accurate - and My Lai-like), mystery, and suspense. You might even have to add YA, because the 2 main protagonists are 21 (we will eventually have a "discussion" about genre classification).
- I had plenty of tears, head nods and shakes, and OMGs.
- Joe works as a bouncer. And I actually learned the moves a bouncer has to make in order to bring a person or situation under control. It's fascinating.
- There were several major twists that I never saw coming (no surprise there!).
- Eskers really knows how to write:
_Her geniality faded like a toy succumbing to a dead battery, her eyes no longer weightless, her dimples gone.
_She had curly brown hair that sprayed out from her head like the tentacles of a sea anemone.
_It was like washing the dust off a window that you didn't realize was dirty. (when Joe sees Lila with makeup for the 1st time)
_Her words rose and purled in a graceful arabesque and then kicked with jazz. (seeing Lila very animated)
_Tufts of hair stuck out of my head in all directions, like I'd been cow-licked by a drunken heifer.
_"And Joe," Rupert said. "If this is a wild-goose chase, I'll be calling on you. I don't like getting yanked around. Are we clear?" "Crystal," I said. - I'm sure you remember that this is what Tom Cruise said in A Few Good Men. But here, the 14-year old girl who was murdered was named Crystal. A very cool double meaning.
_In the middle of the table, a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel's stood out like a holiday centerpiece.
_...and her hair looked like a wad of burned copper wire.
The Life We Bury is Allen Eskens' debut novel, published in 2014. He has another one out now called The Guise of Another. I will definitely read it. This guy is good. Oh, and if you want to talk about TLWB at the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club meeting, it's Tuesday, August 16, from 6:30-7:30.