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Book Club Kits: The Life We Bury

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book 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. Iverson 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. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, 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 by the time Joe discovers the truth, it is too late to escape the fallout"-- Provided by publisher.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?


  1. What aspects of the novel did the author draw from to come up with the title for The Life We Bury?


  1. Which character, if any, did you identify with the most? Why?


  1. Was there a particular scene that resonated with you or stayed with you after you finished the novel?


  1. How did you feel about the character of Carl Iverson when he was first introduced?


  1. Would you say that the story plot driven or character driven? In other words, do events unfold quickly? Or is more time spent developing characters' inner lives? Does it make a difference to your enjoyment?


  1. How does guilt affect or influence the various characters?


  1. What would you say are Joe's strongest character traits?



  1. If you could change the character of Joe Talbert, what would you change?



  1. How do Joe’s relationships with his mother and brother demonstrate the nature of his character?



  1. How is the harsh Minnesota winter weather a character in the story?



  1. Where do you think Joe, Lila, and Jeremy will be in ten years?


  1. Have you read Allen’s other book, “The Guise of Another?” How does it compare to this book?

About the Author

My name is Allen Eskens and I have a deep passion for writing engaging fiction.

My goal as a writer is to blend creative plots with deep, rich characters. I believe that—as a result of television shows like CSI and Forensic Files—readers have a greater understanding of the investigative process and yearn for stories that challenge them with creative twists as well as intellectual honesty.

But that is only half of the story. An ingenuous plot won't carry a story if the characters do not resonate. I strive to give each character a depth that makes them real to the reader, telling their stories through subplots, giving them a history that make the characters come alive. My debut novel, THE LIFE WE BURY, continues to garner praise as it gets discovered by more and more readers. And now my second novel THE GUISE OF ANOTHER is now available nationwide.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. I honed my creative writing skills through the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University as well as classes and seminars at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.