Lincoln In The Bardo: A Novel

By George Saunders
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"Lincoln In The Bardo" by George Saunders is a mesmerizing and inventive novel that explores themes of grief, loss, and the nature of existence. Set in the aftermath of President Abraham Lincoln's young son Willie's death, the story takes place in a cemetery, where a group of spirits inhabiting the "bardo" – a Tibetan Buddhist concept of the transitional state between death and rebirth – engage in conversations and watch the world of the living.

The narrative oscillates between various voices, including those of the spirits, historical accounts, and a chorus of characters. These eclectic voices provide insight into their individual stories, regrets, and hopes, highlighting the countless complexities of human existence. Meanwhile, a struggle unfolds as Willie's spirit, trapped and struggling to move on, catches the attention of his grieving father, who visits the cemetery late at night to mourn.

As Lincoln mourns his son, he embarks on a deeply personal and introspective journey, questioning his own choices and the weight of his presidency. In the bardo, he encounters a diverse range of spirits, each with their own deeply held beliefs and perspectives on life and death. Through these encounters, Lincoln is ultimately confronted with the complex nature of grief and the enduring power of love.

Saunders' masterful storytelling, combining historical facts with elements of fiction, brings to life both the intimacy of Lincoln's grief and the larger historical context of the Civil War era. "Lincoln In The Bardo" is a poignant and thought-provoking portrayal of grief and loss, inviting readers to reflect on the universal themes of love, mortality, and the human condition. With its distinctive structure and powerful prose, this novel is a testament to the enduring impact of one of America's greatest leaders and the infinite complexities of existence.
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