Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
38
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December : a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state--called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo--a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo  is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction's ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Praise for Lincoln in the Bardo

"A luminous feat of generosity and humanism." --Colson Whitehead, The New York Times Book Review

"A masterpiece." -- Zadie Smith

"Ingenious . . . Saunders--well on his way toward becoming a twenty-first-century Twain--crafts an American patchwork of love and loss, giving shape to our foundational sorrows." -- Vogue

"Saunders is the most humane American writer working today." --Harper's Magazine

"The novel beats with a present-day urgency--a nation at war with itself, the unbearable grief of a father who has lost a child, and a howling congregation of ghosts, as divided in death as in life, unwilling to move on." -- Vanity Fair

"A brilliant, Buddhist reimagining of an American story of great loss and great love." --Elle

"Wildly imaginative" --Marie Claire

"Mesmerizing . . . Dantesque . . . A haunting American ballad." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Exhilarating . . . Ruthless and relentless in its evocation not only of Lincoln and his quandary, but also of the tenuous existential state shared by all of us." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"It's unlike anything you've ever read, except that the grotesque humor, pathos, and, ultimately, human kindness at its core mark it as a work that could come only from Saunders." --The National
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780812995343
Branch Call Number: FIC SAUND G

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LoganLib_JennyI Nov 10, 2017

George Saunders brings us a new take on historical fiction. Being an avid reader of non-fiction and fiction books, I loved the interspersed quotes and clips from people and media of the day. This novel shows how Lincoln wore the unenviable hat of US president (during a Civil War, no less) and the heavy cloak of grief for his favourite son president. It seemed too much for one human to bear and the crypt scenes were tear jerkers.
My only criticism was the unnecessary over use of harsh swearing by the bardo characters at times.

p
pokano
Nov 02, 2017

The 2017 Mann Booker Prize winner will not be everyone's cup of tea. The premise is the historical fact that Abraham Lincoln's young son, Willie, has died. A few nights later, Lincoln, wracked with grief and bowed by fatigue, visits the cemetery. The bardo comes from a Tibetan Buddhist concept of the place between death and rebirth. The book is written in many voices, mostly from inhabitants of the bardo (including Willie) who come from all walks of life and sometimes from historical and more contemporary works about Lincoln and Willie. At times the book seems brilliant and at other times, I found it just plain confusing. Fortunately, the book is a quick read.

p
peachmcd
Oct 21, 2017

Saunders is a genius, and this book is a work of genius. Which is not to say everyone will love it the way I did. I read it non-stop and was done way too quickly. I loved the different voices describing the same thing (the moon, Lincoln's eyes) or event (a party, a funeral) - how difficult it is for humans to know anything surely! I loved the metaphysic of Saunders' afterlife, blending Tibetan Buddhism with C.S. Lewis and adding a dash of Saunders' own astute wit. This is a book that bears re-reading, and fully deserves every prize it has won and will win.

debwalker Oct 17, 2017

Just won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

n
njon38
Oct 07, 2017

Without a doubt the most unique novel I've read in a long time. "Bardo" is a limbo, that place between worlds and is the place we find Willie Lincoln who died at age 11 of typhoid. When President Lincoln come to the cemetery to visit him it riles up many other spirits also in the Bardo. It is about freedom and slavery, body and spirit, the civil war and the author says the novel’s "Apparent Narrative Rationale" is that it is about Abraham Lincoln. Although odd and somewhat difficult to get a handle on, it is well worth the read.

b
becker
Sep 13, 2017

This book was incredibly unique, well written and poignant. I am so glad to have read it. Despite this, it is a difficult book to recommend. Or perhaps I just don't know where to begin to explain it. The story itself is simple and sad. It is a story of the grief Lincoln experiences when his young son dies. It's the telling of the story that is interesting and unusual. Told through the many voices of the souls in the crypt where the boy lays. If you appreciate the work of George Saunders or if you are curious to read something with a unique and creative format, this book will not disappoint you.

l
ladiablesse
Sep 04, 2017

As other commentators have weighed in, this is a book that divides readers. I had listened to Saunders in interview and was captivated by his reading of a brief section at the beginning, in the voice of one of his main narrators. So I had a lot of anticipation going in... The Spoon River Anthology analogy is very apt, and if approached more as script than novel, per se, the book does gain in emotional impact.
Like another reader, I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I found the real and fictionalized references somewhat distracting and cumbersome, hindering what was a meandering story to mid-point. And the concentrated focus on men and male grief seemed somewhat claustrophobic by the end. Inventive, yes, clever, without a doubt. But I felt its cleverness and scholarship, and like most children, I'd rather not have a magician disclose their tricks.

y
yesucan
Aug 26, 2017

I really wanted to like this book, but I found it so confusing. Hated the way the story is told and just did not enjoy it!

w
WCLSDemingLibrary
Aug 05, 2017

The way the particular Bardo of the book and all its dimensions are slowly revealed, and the characters whose stories I learn through their own confused/illusive/wandering/clear voices = an amazing feat of writing and spirit and magic. Heart, hilarity, and history. Longing and levity. I so highly recommend this book. (Now on the long list for the 2017 Man Booker prize.)

athompson10 Aug 05, 2017

Brilliant, creative, loved it. A worthy Man Booker nominee.

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