Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
Random House, 2017. 341 pgs. Fiction
The bardo refers to the state of existence between life and death. Souls who wish to postpone departing this world for the next linger in the bardo and it is here that Willie Lincoln, young son of Abraham Lincoln, finds himself following a deadly case of typhoid fever. In the graveyard he encounters a cast of ghosts all avoiding the "matterlightbooming" phenomenon for their own diverse reasons. President Lincoln's visit to his son's mausoleum causes such an uproar in the usually quiet graveyard that few souls will survive the night unaffected.
This is not a necessarily easy read, though it can be a quick read thanks to the script like formatting the author has chosen. What makes Lincoln in the Bardo difficult is that it is just bizarre and the style definitely takes some getting used to. I began by listening to the audiobook, which has an all-star cast including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, and Ben Stiller. How could you go wrong listening to this? I'm not sure I know the answer but it did not work for me. It was disjointed and confusing and I eventually switched to the print version to see if it was better. Maybe I should have stuck with the audio for a bit longer, but by the end of the print version of the novel, I was a bit awestruck by its depth and beauty. This may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for something that takes a bit of work and leaves you with plenty to think about, this may be just the thing.