“Everything was real; inconceivably real, infinitely dear. These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and, in this way, brought them forth. And now we must lose them.”Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
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 returned to the crypt several times alone 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 thrilling, 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.
Fiction, Abraham Lincoln, Son, Father, Death, Ghosts, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Willie Lincoln, Graveyard, Humor, Purgatory, Loss, Grief
Why This Rating?
This book as a whole felt like an Ehh and thats about it. I appreciate the creative approach the author had for this story but fell flat for me.
I was not a fan of the writing for the book. It was definitely unique and I commend the author for writing it in a different style. However, this was not a style that I enjoyed reading. Heck, I could have looked up articles from that moment in time and read a majority of the book since he wrote in a newspaper clipping/commentary/quoting kind of style half of the time. Granted probably half of those “comments” were created by him, but they were clearly influenced from his research regardless of his creative creations or true quotes of the time period. A fair amount of the time I felt like I was walking around a room with a recording device and catching different conversations. OR for a majority of it, I felt like I was interviewing a number of individuals as a detective, but none of them answered the questioned I asked. Instead each person used the time to just want to prattle about their lives. Plus, we keep jumping back and forth in time. Willie is dead, a party is happening while he dies, we see him as he is a ghost and his father is crying over him, now back to planning the party we heard about early. Whiplash people!
I would also say, do NOT go into the book thinking it really has anything to do with Lincoln or his son. Are they in the book? Yes. Are they key figures of the book? Honestly, no. I felt like they were there for complete plot compulsions and nothing more. The Lincoln boys were used more as a “Hey look at me! I’m talking about the president and his son… – kind of!” which was a big let down for me. Plus, the ramblings that the different ghosts do… goodness gracious.. I thought I was going to be reading a book about the son of Lincoln. This, I felt, is more a writing about what people talk and think about while they are dead. All of this happening while hanging out in graveyard before they move on.
And Dang! Ghosts are angry you guys! Not all of them, but enough of them that makes you wonder how you’re going to be once you’re gone. Also they are a tad gross. And very capable of colorful word choices, explanations, and expressions. I guess there isn’t much to hold back once you’re dead.
The audiobook was really cool. I felt like it was more a stage production rather than a book reading especially with all of the background *gasps, *coughs, *mumblings that were happening. The amount of readers for this book was crazy! Unfortunately, I don’t know if this was the best book for the amount of readers they got. The cast was a total of 166 people which is a HUGE amount. Unfortunately, it seemed like a majority of them were reading a single line during the quote/comment sections and were never heard from again. There are a number of other books I can think of that would benefit from having multiple readers, but this one would have been just fine with 1 to 3 different readers. It seemed like a waste of the individuals’ time to go and read ONE line or small section and then to just wave them out the door again.
It wasn’t the best of stories to read. I started with the physical book and had to move to the audiobook just to finish the book because I was having a hard time sticking with the writing and story. You guys might have a little more luck with the audio versions for the story as I did.
Time to get lost in the next story!