The Life We Bury tells the story of Joe Talbert, a junior at the University of Minnesota, who receives a class assignment to write a biography of someone who has lived an interesting life. At a nursing home he meets Carl Iverson, a man dying of cancer who has been medically paroled after spending thirty years in prison for the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Carl agrees to tell Joe his story, and Joe sets out to unravel the tapestry of the thirty-year-old murder.
To complicate things, Joe's bi-polar, alcoholic mother has taken up with a low-life who hits Joe's eighteen-year-old autistic brother. Joe is torn by the guilt of going to college and abandoning his brother. Throughout the novel, Joe has to intercede to protect his brother and is conflicted every time he has to once again leave his brother behind. The power of that guilt weighs heavily upon Joe and will demand a resolution of its own.
The Life We Bury is full of tension, twists and turns, and has a powerful, climactic ending sure to gratify. But in the end, it is the bond between Joe and his brother Jeremy that gives this novel its big (albeit tormented) heart.
A "masterful debut" with a "satisfying resolution."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review (read the full review)
"Eskens's first-person narration grabs the reader and never relinquishes its hold."
—Library Journal, Editor's Fall Pick (read the full review)
"The tension builds to an all-stops-out finale that works on every level. Thriller fans should keep their eyes on Eskens; he's a comer."
"Eskens' debut is a solid and thoughtful tale of a young man used to taking on burdens beyond his years."
"Set against the backdrop of a brutal Minnesota winter, The Life We Bury is much more than a satisfying, suspenseful novel. This story kept me turning the pages, and it touched my heart. The characters are as real as my next-door neighbors, the story compelling, and the writing superb."
A "well-crafted debut novel. Characters with layers of suppressed memories and emotions only add to the suspenseful plot. Looking forward to more from this Minnesotan author!"
—LibraryReads. #7 on the LibraryReads list for October (read the full review)
"Allen Eskens delivers a mesmerizing debut, unfolding decades of secrets in a rewarding tale of redemption."
—JULIE KRAMER, Minnesota Book Award winner and author of Delivering Death
"Joe Talbert is an everyman hero—thoughtful, unassuming, and determined to rise above his circumstances. Smart, stylish writing sets the tone in this absorbing debut about Joe's efforts to unearth the truth behind a brutal murder while caring for his autistic brother. A rich and highly satisfying mystery!"
—LYNNE RAIMONDO, author of Dante's Poison
"This tale of inequality lured me in from the first page. Some children quietly carry tremendous burdens, and Allen Eskens is masterful in exposing the frustrations of a young adult trying to escape the clutches of an abusive, alcoholic parent—all while trying to take college classes, protect a younger brother, and investigate a murder three decades old. This debut novel is breathtaking, the plot real, heart-wrenching, and hopeful. Eskens writes my kind of book."
—SUSAN FROETSCHEL, 2014 Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee and author of Fear of Beauty
"Awesome murder mystery! Great story, great characters, and great suspense. ...It was a great read and it sucked me in from the very beginning... If you want a good thrill, read this book. One of my favorites this summer!"
—A Midsummer's Night Read, Book Review
"Great story line, superb characters...Intriguing, entertaining, gripping and totally satisfying."
—Col's Criminal Library, Book Review (read the full review)
"The Life We Bury, a first novel out by Allen Eskens, is a fantastic read hands down, and one of the best novels that I have read from a new author recently."
—Deborah Kowal at Bookworm blog (read the full review)
"Kudos and five stars to Allen Eskens for this intriguing debut, a combination coming-of-age and murder mystery. The complex characters are well-developed, and their paths to redemption, along with twists and turns, makes this a compelling read to the end."
—Examiner.com (read the full review)
"If there's a more entrancing and deliciously descriptive book...this fall, I haven't found it."
—The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
"Allan Eskens' compulsively suspenseful first novel reveals that guilt takes many forms—and that getting the story right is essential."
—BookPage (read the full review)
"In his debut, Eskens shows his skill as a storyteller. The pacing could be set to a metronome and the style is clean and accessible. He finds fresh takes on puzzle pieces for the story and knows when to present them."
—MysteryPeople (read the full review)
"The Life We Bury is Allen Eskens' first novel, but you'd really never know it, from prose that approaches the poetic, to the carefully constructed mystery within."
—CrimeFictionLover (read the full review)
"This is a novel to remember, with final scenes that are memorably gripping all on their own. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."
"This powerful debut thriller is highly recommended."
"I found this book difficult to put down and it continues to resonate with me."
—Poisoned Pen Review (read the full review)
"Read it and thank me."
—The Durango Herald (read the full review)
"This is an excellent mystery, written in a compelling, readable style."
—Lucy Moo's Book Reviews (read the full review)
"This is a very compelling novel."
—Alan Caruba (read the full review)
Selected as one of the "Books that Buzzed at the American Library Association Conference" by the Library Journal prepub editor
Seventh Street Books, Paperback, October 2014, ISBN: 9781616149987