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"Saunders's first novel resounds with the author's talent for pure voice, familiar to readers of his short stories, but this novel takes a magnifiscent and capacious form. The content -- the sudden death of Lincoln's son Willie at the beginning of the Civil War -- feels both elemental and strangely topical. A collage of historical texts are excerpted, cited, and disavowed in turn, while a trio of ghosts narrate grief from the Bardo -- an "in-between" realm of Tibetan Buddhism, or, simultaneously, the crypt where Willie Lincoln lays dead. I thought of Anne Carson's poetry and the absurd humor of Beckett, a Buddhist Koan or two, and as astonishing as the writing is from a craft perspective, the power of its emotional resonance knocked me sideways. We sit with Lincoln as he grieves his son, the present and future losses of the Civil War, and the monstrous, murderous institution of slavery. A timely and welcome affirmation of the necessary importance of compassion and spiritual work of cultivating empathy. (Personally, it restored my faith in what a novel can do." -- Gina
— From Our Favorite Books of 2017
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
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 inventedNamed One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, USA Today, and Maureen Corrigan, NPR - One of Time's Ten Best Novels of the Year - A New York Times Notable Book
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?
"A luminous feat of generosity and humanism."--Colson Whitehead, The New York Times Book Review "A masterpiece."--Zadie Smith