Friday, December 21, 2018

Booker Book #52: Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

I have loved the writing of George Saunders ever since I was introduced to him by a former colleague, who used his story “The Falls” in a high-school American lit class. Each of his short stories is unique and thought-provoking, sort of a hybrid of Raymond Carver’s bluntness and David Foster Wallace’s intricacy.

Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most original novels I have ever read. It is mostly told in two alternating forms: historical narrative composed of an accretion of related quotations from presumably historical sources, and narrative spoken by ghosts in a graveyard.

Here’s the premise: During the early years of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, one of the Lincolns’ sons, Willie, got sick and died. He is taken to a Washington, D.C., cemetery for interment. There we meet several dead-but-not-departed, who linger between this world and the next.

The novel focuses on the ghosts’ attempts to help Willie move on the next world, as awful things happen to child spirits who linger. The result is a fascinating peek into the Great Emancipator’s mind.

It’s a quick and easy read, shorter than your typical 343-page book, because of the space between the quotations, reminiscent of the spaces between graves in a graveyard.  

And with that, I have finished the Booker Project! I still have ten days left in 2018, so look for my review of this year’s winner, Milkman, as well as my personal favorites recap before year’s end.

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