Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins a story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state -- called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo -- a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Publisher: New York :, Random House,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812995343
Branch Call Number: Fiction
Characteristics: 341 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

#2 Traces a night of solitary mourning and reflection as experienced by the sixteenth president after the death of his eleven-year-old son at the dawn of the Civil War.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jan 10, 2018

#2 on Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of 2017

Jan 02, 2018

The form of the ¨novel¨ should appeal to the twitter set. But why isn´t there a story?

Dec 28, 2017

Ann Michel recommended.

Dec 19, 2017

This is one of the most original works of fiction I have ever read. It is hilarious and devastating and is written unlike anything else.

Dec 13, 2017

Have never read any books by G Saunders, and will not read another. This book was confusing and jumped all over with each sentence or paragraph having a reference. Even though it was a novel and I read mostly nonfiction. The author's thinking and verbalizing was over my head and with out a story line.

Nov 29, 2017

Didn't know George Saunders from Adam but am now in love with this inventive, unique mind that manages to describe crushing grief, confusion, the horrors of civil war, the smallness and the greatness of the human spirit through excerpts from writings of Lincoln's period and the musings of numerous 'spirits' unwilling to leave the between-world of the bardo. Fascinating, constantly surprising, a tour de force, but not an easy read.

Cynthia_N Nov 25, 2017

This was a tough read for me. I struggled some with the format (multiple POVs) and the disjointedness of it but it did eventually come together for me enough to enjoy some of the story.

Nov 02, 2017

The 2017 Mann Booker Prize winner will not be everyone's cup of tea. The premise is the historical fact that Abraham Lincoln's young son, Willie, has died. A few nights later, Lincoln, wracked with grief and bowed by fatigue, visits the cemetery. The bardo comes from a Tibetan Buddhist concept of the place between death and rebirth. The book is written in many voices, mostly from inhabitants of the bardo (including Willie) who come from all walks of life and sometimes from historical and more contemporary works about Lincoln and Willie. At times the book seems brilliant and at other times, I found it just plain confusing. Fortunately, the book is a quick read.

Oct 21, 2017

Saunders is a genius, and this book is a work of genius. Which is not to say everyone will love it the way I did. I read it non-stop and was done way too quickly. I loved the different voices describing the same thing (the moon, Lincoln's eyes) or event (a party, a funeral) - how difficult it is for humans to know anything surely! I loved the metaphysic of Saunders' afterlife, blending Tibetan Buddhism with C.S. Lewis and adding a dash of Saunders' own astute wit. This is a book that bears re-reading, and fully deserves every prize it has won and will win.

debwalker Oct 17, 2017

Just won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number Get NoveList Reading Recommendations

Subject Headings


Find it at TCCL

To Top