First Lines: Lincoln in the Bardo

Where Ibid: A Life did not quite convince me with the execution of the story, it did prepare for what turned out to be one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year: George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo.

It is 1862, and Willie Lincoln has died. His grief-stricken father, the president, returns to his tomb to hold the boy’s body. This, apparently, causes much consternation in the Bardo, that mystical Buddhist place that exists between death and rebirth, where Willie lingers.

That’s the story, and that is, indeed, not very interesting all by itself. But like Ibid, the form makes the story: it is told in a cacophony of voices, citations from sources both real and fictional. There’s a 166 of them, and together tell a many-layered and compelling tale.

Book read
George Saunders — Lincoln in the Bardo
First line
On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.