Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lincoln In The Bardo By George Saunders

The American Civil War, presidential politics and Tibetan Buddhism collide in George Saunders auspicious debut novel, "Lincoln In The Bardo."

Saunders, who has spent the last decade establishing himself as an essayist, children’s author and master of short fiction, has now turned his attention to writing his dazzling first long form book. 

Starting in February of 1862 the plot centers around Abraham Lincoln who has his hands full with the Civil War and the death of his son Willie at the age of eleven. The war is not going well and the president is grieving. 

Although this appears to be a lynchpin for an intense tale of agony and loss, it is something completely different, a ghost story. Veering into the supernatural, Saunders savvy storytelling chops provides his audience with a historical contemplation on the adversities of life and death.

Using Tibetan Buddhist thought as a model, Saunders talks to readers by carefully developing the President’s son as a restless spirit, stuck in a purgatory filled with penance and pettiness. Here Willie is forced to use compassion for redemption to peace.

As the plot unfolds Abe Lincoln is mired in fighting to save the Union he swore to uphold while overcoming his grief. In the meantime Willie is forced to confront the war waging for his soul.

One of the first great books of 2017.

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