The long-awaited very first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none aside from Abraham Lincoln, as well as a memorable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The combating has begun in earnest, and the country has begun to understand it remains in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, seriously ill.
In a matter of days, despite forecasts of a healing, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too helpful for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has actually called him house.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his kid’s body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins a memorable story of familial love and loss that breaks without its reasonable, historic framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and scary.
Willie Lincoln discovers himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts socialize, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state– called, in the Tibetan custom, the bardo– a significant struggle appears over young Willie’s soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo is an amazing feat of imagination and a vibrant step forward from one of the most important and prominent authors of his generation. Officially bold, generous in spirit, deeply worried about matters of the heart, it is a testimony to fiction’s capability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that actually matter to us.
Saunders has created an awesome new type that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask an ageless, profound concern: How do we live and like when we understand that everything we love must end?
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