WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
A STORY OF LOVE AFTER DEATH
'A masterpiece' Zadie Smith
'Extraordinary' Daily Mail
'A tour de force' The Sunday Times
The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body.
From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices - living and dead, historical and fictional - Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
It takes a full six minutes at the end of this unforgettable audio production to read the cast list of 166 actors: comedian Nick Offerman, author David Sedaris, Hollywood A-listers Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, and Jeffrey Tambor, and others. The main challenge of Saunders's Civil War era novel is fragmentation. In addition to the plethora of characters to keep straight, the novel features several challenging elements of postmodern fiction: punctuationless sentences, a constantly shifting perspective, and a me lange of factual snippets and boldly fabricated sources. The effect, however, is a wonder brought to life in these performances. Sedaris steals the show as Mr. Bevins, a wry and lonely spirit who tarries in the titular bardo, mourning the lover who left him. Two other performances deserve special mention: Kirby Heyborne, a veteran audiobook narrator, more than holds his own in this star-studded cast, breaking listeners' hearts with his quiet and sensitive portrayal of Mr. Lincoln's recently deceased boy Willie. And one of the book's best performances belongs to Saunders himself, who plays the Reverend Thomas, a timid man of the cloth who is haunted by sin but what sin, however, he doesn't know. If fiction lovers listen to just one audiobook in 2017 or ever it should be this one. A Random House hardcover.