Bardo: (in Tibetan Buddhism) a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death.
Ok, we out here doing new things, trying new stuff.
For context’s sake, I’d never read any Saunders before this so I had no strong feelings going into this. But I’d heard so much about this book I had to pick it up. And I was glad I did!
Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo is an incredibly touching novel. There are reports on how Lincoln handled the death of his son young Willie, apparently right after his death he returned to Willie’s grave to hold his body in a private goodbye. Based on that report, and other eye witness accounts of the time, Saunder’s showed us how painful it can be to lose a loved one. We also see what Willie might have experienced shortly after he died in an imaged purgatory.
There are a whole host of side characters, some misadventures, and some personal reflection. And all in the most interesting format I’ve read in a minute.
I’ve talked some about unique story telling, but in case you missed it I’m always impressed with authors who can do something new with style and pull it off. Saunders combined real historical accounts with fiction to round out this story. This mixed narrative means there were many characters speaking, occasionally at the same time. And while that’s made for a few confusing parts, generally Saunders was able to execute the dialogue successfully.
But the most impressive part of this whole thing was the way he conveyed Lincoln’s emotions. I read most of this book at the beach with my best friend on a sunny day. But the goodbye between father and son was so touching and emotional my best friend was like why are you so emotional. What is wrong with you. So probably don’t read this alone in the rain.
Was it a perfect story? No. We’re some of the characters flat or superfluous? Yes. But it was an innovative way to tell a story and I felt some emotions so we’ll call it a win. Check it out for your self!