The release of George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo feels like an important cultural moment in a most uncertain time, and rightfully so. A potential critical and commercial blockbuster that doesn’t feature “The Girl Who/That/On ____” in the title, Lincoln in the Bardo is a rare exception that is worthy of all the accolades it will undoubtedly accrue. It’s almost impossible to give a review that does justice to the novel, Saunders’ first, because Lincoln breaks all of the typical rules of popular fiction. A history lesson, a play, a meditation, a eulogy, a staged reading, a treatise, a speculation, an examination of political history, a rumination on life and death, an indictment of racism, a justification for war, Lincoln in the Bardo is all of these things and none of them. It’s unlike anything that you’ve probably ever read, loosely the story of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie who, after succumbing to typhoid, remains in an afterlife limbo with a greek chorus of other lingering souls as both he and his father come to terms with the finality of loss. At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Lincoln is always unpredictable and brilliant and a must-read that will be considered a masterpiece for generations to come.
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel available now.