The first full-length novel from the renowned author George Saunders, a gripping father-son story inspired from the tragic loss of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son, Willie. It explores the events set in an intermediate space between life and reincarnation.
At the dawn of American Civil War in February 1982, Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, becomes gravely ill– he was only eleven years old. Within a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. President Lincoln says at the time, “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth”. Records have it that being deeply affected by the untimely demise of his young son, the grief-stricken American president visits the crypt several times alone to hold the boy’s body.
Based on this documented event in history, acclaimed author George Saunders spins a daring narrative about familial love and loss, skillfully putting together an ensemble of supporting characters, living and dead, real and imagined, in order to create a story both comedic and terrifying. It takes place right after Willie’s passing, in a transitional state – known to the Tibetan tradition, the bardo. Willie finds himself trapped in a limbo among other dead people, who for one reason or another, still hang around, unready to take the next step of the journey - mostly unaware that they are dead. Within this supernatural realm, where spirits grumble, gripe, and do bizarre acts of penance, some spirits tried to persuade young Willie to complete his journey to the Other Side but soon realize that in order to succeed, they must find a way to make his father let go.
Lincoln in the Bardo is a bold experimental novel from one of the most decorated and influential writers of his generation. Daring and deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into the world of the supernatural. It leaves the readers wondering “How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?”