The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
From Seventh Street Books:
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.