A provocative novel about abandoned faith, heartbreaking loss, and inescapable government scrutiny in the heartland of a post-9/11 nation.
American missionary and ROTC cadet Tyler Ahls, long missing in Pakistan, has just surfaced, proselytizing in an Afghani terrorist propaganda video. For Omaha nurse Elisabeth Holland, it’s a shock that her brother is even alive. Now she must ask herself a more grave question: Is he a hostage or a traitor?
Seasoned FBI special agent Frank Schwaller is asking this too. He’s come to Nebraska armed with countless hours of video, audio, and email surveillance. The object of his unyielding gaze is Elisabeth. But the more Schwaller uncovers about her—from her and Tyler’s evangelical Christian upbringing to her shattered youthful dreams to her broken marriage to a drifter—the more mystifying Elisabeth and the two men in her life become.
To find out the truth about these entwined lives—and the desperation that comes from love, fear, and the need to disappear—Agent Schwaller will discover how even the lonesomest corners of the Plains can be darkened by the long shadow of war.
From Kings of Broken Things author Theodore Wheeler comes an exploration of love lost, the failure of humanism, and the revelations of how deeply the US government spies on the personal lives of its citizens.
“In Our Other Lives is a deep exploration of family, faith, love, sex, abandonment, patriotism and international intrigue. Historical events and actual people and places are deftly interwoven throughout the narrative. Wheeler’s vividly rendered scenes in Nebraska, Chicago, and Wisconsin, and his characters’ pitch perfect dialogue conjure a compelling tale of life in America in the period after 9/11.”
–Lincoln Journal-Star, 7/12/20
“Wheeler’s rich blending of Elisabeth’s grief over her lost husband and isolation from her family with transcripts from Schwaller’s investigation slowly builds an inviting tale. Readers will be intrigued by Wheeler’s provocative juxtaposition of extremism in both Christian and Muslim ideologies.”
–Publishers Weekly, 2/18/20
“The novel’s strength is in its portrait of the stoic, tough, but uncynical Elisabeth. Her coping mechanism through all the trials of her life […] has been to move briskly along and then shelter in place, not delving too deeply into her own motives or anyone else’s. It’s not that she’s incurious; it’s that she knows that investigating the whereabouts or motives of those who’ve left her will avail her nothing.”
–Kirkus Reviews, 2/1/20
“…the kind of novel that makes you think deeply about the issues that have faced the United States since 9/11, while also telling a gripping story with great characters.”
-Writer’s Bone, 3/18/20.
The Rumpus. 1/29/21.
Riverside Chats, KIOS NPR, 11/23/20.
Friday Live Extra, NET Radio, 11/13/20
Real Clear Defense, 5/2/20.
The Other Stories, 4/22/20.
The Writers Bone, 4/10/20.
Omaha Lit Fest Live, 3/27/20.
Nebraska Territory, 3/24/20.
All About Books, NET Radio, 3/4/20.
Arts @ 830, KVNO, 2/27/20.
“In this page-turner thriller, Theodore Wheeler weaves a compelling and complex narrative of public pain and private loss, of lives ruined by tragedy and at the same time redeemed by discovery. He shows us that people are mysteries, even to those who love them most, and that war and its aftermath reach deep into our land and our hearts.”
-Mary Morris, author of Gateway to the Moon
“Reminiscent of the late Denis Johnson’s masterpiece, Tree of Smoke, Wheeler’s sterling novel tackles the modern world’s attempt to systematically catalog the chaos of life. This clear-eyed look at society’s entrance into a fully digitized world delivers a host of fascinating characters’ unknowing struggle within the purview of the recently unveiled Patriot Act. As they wrestle with the old questions of what to believe in, and how to ground a life if you no longer believe in anything, it becomes clear the new information gathering apparatus fails to understand the longing and need that propel each of them forward. An ambitious and absorbing achievement.”
-Devin Murphy, author of Tiny Americans
“Theodore Wheeler’s In Our Other Lives is wholly engrossing. Through the mysteries of the Ahls family, narrated through the eyes of the all-knowing servers that see, hear, and record everything in the wake of the Patriot Act, Wheeler deftly weaves the intricate, vulnerable lives of his characters against the stark backdrop of the American plains, resulting in a poignant book that’s as human as it is political. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.”
-SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies
“A captivating, thought-provoking, and sweeping novel filled with power and depth. Set against the backdrop of America’s near-decade long war on terrorism, In Our Other Lives offers a nuanced portrayal of public and private lives and the way those lives intersect, disconnect, and become lost in translation. Different kinds of losses and invasions radiate through this novel and Wheeler reveals complexities of the human heart with subtle, beautiful prose that surprises as often as it delights.”
-Kassandra Montag, author of After the Flood
“Taut, knuckle-whitening, and full of intriguing questions, In Our Other Lives is a page-turner that keeps the reader guessing. An FBI agent visits Omaha, Nebraska, to gather information about a radicalized young man who was either captured while on a mission trip to Pakistan, or who voluntarily joined up with a group of terrorists, only to find that in this Midwestern city everyone keeps a secret; that disappearances and deaths pervade their lives as surely as it does for those in the Middle East; that the war abroad is nearer than anyone imagined. Don’t miss out on this thrilling saga about a family in turmoil, and the international crisis that ties them all together.”
-Phong Nguyen, author of The Adventures of Joe Harper
“Powerful, provocative, fascinating and deeply unsettling: In Our Other Lives weaves the threads that connect our lives and those who would hold to account this haywire of memory, love, faith, reason and understanding. I am still thinking about this one, the way it snuck up on me and how it will not let go.”
-Robert Olmstead, author of Savage Country
“With the pace of a thriller and the patience of a psychological study, In Our Other Lives depicts ordinary people consumed by tragedy and obsession. Wheeler skillfully depicts the struggles of mothers, missionaries, and spies, while always paying attention to the small, beautiful impulses that make them human.”
-Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters