Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

A Novel

Book - 2017
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On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son's body. Willie finds himself in a strange purgatory-- the bardo-- where ghosts commisserate quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance ... and where a struggle erupts over his soul.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780812995343
0812995341
Branch Call Number: FIC SAUNDER 2017
Characteristics: 341 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Saunders’ boldly imagined, exquisitely sensitive, and sharply funny historical and metaphysical drama pivots on President Lincoln’s grief over the death of his young son, Willie, as the cemetery’s dead tell their stories in a wild and wily improvisation on the afterlife.--SeattleNonFicLibrarians

Saunders’ boldly imagined, exquisitely sensitive, and sharply funny historical and metaphysical drama pivots on President Lincoln’s grief over the death of his young son, Willie, as the cemetery’s dead tell their stories in a wild and wily improvisation on the afterlife.

2017 Man Booker Prize winner.


From the critics


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multcolib_susannel Jun 30, 2020

From the time you open this book to the time you slam it shut, your brain will be taken on a wild rollercoaster ride through a cemetery where some occupants are living and some dead, but all want to tell their story!

m
maipenrai
Feb 22, 2020

I wanted to like this book, but found the audiobook distracting because of citations. The cacophony of the dead was far too much a part of the story and detracted from focus on Lincoln and his grief over the loss of his beloved son. Disappointed. Bookwoman and Abby Tabby

t
thegipples
Dec 21, 2019

Unreadable. Not experimental, just unreadable.

p
posie12
Sep 06, 2019

Interesting read. Try the "Afterlife of George Cartright " Hell can be a variation of things.

u
UM72
Aug 18, 2019

I chose this book as my "Award Winner" for the Adult Reading Program. It WAS a winner. I'd not heard of the Bardo ( a liminal state between death and rebirth in Tibetan tradition) before, and George Saunders explores it vividly in this book. The references to, and quotes from history, help ground the story in some reality, while the characters' experiences are fantastical. This book is moving, entertaining, thought-provoking and memorable.

k
kmcdouall
Aug 02, 2019

Saunders has long been a master of short-form surrealistic satire, and now he has proved equally adept with this longer work. He has, in fact, invented a new form of novel, combining historical documents with imaginative forays into worlds of grief and loss. As with any of Saunders work, these excursions into the realm of fantasy provide opportunities for reflections on real-world issues. Saunders here has made a powerful statement about the the risks of attachment and denial, with what is for him an ultimately hopeful message.

f
fionajay
May 22, 2019

Shortlisted for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award.

h
HujeBohoc
Apr 26, 2019

George Saunders has to be commended for trying something new in this novel: it's the story of Abraham Lincoln's 11-year old son, Willie, who dies and ends up in some sort of in-between world, the "Bardo". The novel's originality is that it is told by dozens of characters who are also in the Bardo.
I was not completely convinced with this form of writing, but the novel is extremely moving at times, especially when we witness Abraham Lincoln's absolute devastation after his son's death. It is impossible for a reader with a heart, especially if you have a child who is Willie's age, to stay indifferent.

w
Waluconis
Mar 13, 2019

George Saunders' novels are always unique. This concerns itself with the after-life, termed the Bardo in the Tibetan Book of the Dead ("Bardo Thodol". That book is not mentioned in this novel, but it is the immediate after-life, where souls can be stuck. Here it is located in a cemetery with many souls involved, some of whom have been there for some time. They move through the landscape and interact in a manner that is at least partially - Dante meets Samuel Beckett. The way that all directly express themselves reminds one of Dante, even though they all do not know they will not return to that "previous place", as it is called. But in this case their feeling of hopelessness has dialogue like the characters in a Beckett play. "Nothing to be done" from "Waiting for Godot" turns into "Nothing to be done about it. Nothing ever to have been done about it." But hold on - what about Lincoln? Well, he and his son who has just died are at the heart of the story. Lincoln's grief is so strong that it extends his connection to his son into the afterlife. The material realities of the world are presented in a matter-of-fact way with cited quotations of primary source material from the time period. This makes an interesting contrast with the souls who have trouble moving on from a lost life that was in most cases violent and disturbing. The dispossessed, the lost, those who died in the 19th century, grief, anxieties, hopes, wishes, aspirations - Saunders pulls all these together in a convincing and unforgettable way. I also enjoyed listening to the Audio book, which has many readers (including the author and David Sedaris) to read all of the voices and historical quotations. It was very helpful in making one's way through the many voices and bringing the novel closer to us.

DBRL_IdaF Mar 11, 2019

In 1862, President Lincoln makes middle of the night visits to the crypt where his beloved young son, Willy, lies interred. Willy and his father stir things up for the spirits inhabiting the cemetery. Most of the story is told from the point of view of the spirits who have not been able to move on, for one reason or another. There are shades of Spoon River Anthology, as we learn a lot about the lives of the cemetery residents through their alternating narration.

In a fascinating literary technique, scenes outside the cemetery are formed using stitched-together historical quotes about Lincoln and the times. Some of the quotes contradict each other, yet Saunders manages to create a coherent narrative from them.

Worth the read. Humor and heartbreak in equal measures, about like life.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Other: Topics: Death, super natural.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Intense empathetic scenes.

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LThomas_Library
May 05, 2018

Coarse Language: Moderate language.

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LThomas_Library
May 04, 2018

LThomas_Library thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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JCLChrisK Oct 17, 2018

All were in sorrow, or had been, or soon would be. It was the nature of things. Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true. At the core of each lay suffering; our eventual end, the many losses we must experience on the way to that end. We must try to see one another in this way. As suffering, limited beings, perennially outmatched by circumstances, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces.

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