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In The Life We Bury, college student Joe Talbert is given an English assignment to write someone’s biography. Not having anyone in his own life that would be a good subject, he goes to a nearby nursing home, where he meets convicted rapist and murderer, Carl Iverson, who has recently been paroled because he is dying. As he learns more about Carl’s life, including the details of his murder conviction, Joe becomes convinced that there’s more to Carl than meets the eye.
Joe has an interesting back story of his own, complete with an autistic brother and a mother who is unfit to raise kids and keeps trying to drag Joe back into the cesspool of her life. His own life experiences give Joe an unexpected empathy towards Carl. It’s that empathy that allows Joe to think that maybe Carl is actually innocent of the crimes he was accused of. As Joe and his neighbor, Lily, dig into the files from Carl’s trial, they discover some overlooked evidence that could work in Carl’s favor. Joe begins a race to exonerate Carl that has him confronting witnesses and possible murderers.
I had a mixed reaction to The Life We Bury. Some elements were good but others were lacking. I thought the character development was well done. The relationship between Joe and his autistic brother was sweet and the author also succeeded in making Carl a very sympathetic character. The plot was good and even offered a clever puzzle.
However, 2/3 of the way through, Joe started committing some unoriginal rookie mistakes that annoyed me. For example, he went alone to confront a possible murderer in his rural lair without telling anyone where he was going. Come on, Joe! Everyone knows you’re not supposed to do that! But then he inexplicably shows McGyver-like skills when escaping from some hairy situations. Dumb one moment, smart the next – it was a little odd to me. Additionally, something about the quality of the writing seemed uneven to me. I think this was the author’s first novel, so this may just be a symptom of him trying to get his legs under him.
Overall, ok, but not great.
I would love to hear another opinion about The Life We Bury. It was rated highly on Amazon…