Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

by George Saunders

Narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Various

Unabridged — 7 hours, 25 minutes

George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel

by George Saunders

Narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Various

Unabridged — 7 hours, 25 minutes

George Saunders

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Overview

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

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 an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, 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.

Lincoln in the Bardo
 is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction's ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders' family, friends, and members of his publishing team, including, in order of their appearance:
 
Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN
David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III
Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS
George Saunders as THE REVEREND EVERLY THOMAS
Miranda July as MRS. ELIZABETH CRAWFORD
Lena Dunham as ELISE TRAYNOR
Ben Stiller as JACK MANDERS
Julianne Moore as JANE ELLIS
Susan Sarandon as MRS. ABIGAIL BLASS
Bradley Whitford as LT. CECIL STONE
Bill Hader as EDDIE BARON
Megan Mullally as BETSY BARON
Rainn Wilson as PERCIVAL "DASH" COLLIER
Jeff Tweedy as CAPTAIN WILLIAM PRINCE
Kat Dennings as MISS TAMARA DOOLITTLE
Jeffrey Tambor as PROFESSOR EDMUND BLOOMER
Mike O'Brien as LAWRENCE T. DECROIX
Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL
Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS
and
Patrick Wilson as STANLEY "PERFESSER" LIPPERT
with
Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN,
Mary Karr as MRS. ROSE MILLAND,
and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator


Praise for the audiobook

"Lincoln in the Bardo" sets a new standard for cast recordings in its structure, in its performances, and in its boldness. Now, let's see who answers the challenge." - Chicago Tribune
 
"Like the novel, the audiobook breaks new ground in what can be accomplished through a story. It helps that there's not a single bad note in the cast of a whopping 166 people. It's also the rare phenomenon of an audiobook being a completely different experience compared to the novel. Even if you've read the novel, the audiobook is worth a listen (and vice versa). The whole project pushes the narrative form forward." - A.V. Club
 
"The result is an auditory experience unlike any other, where the awareness of individual voices disappears while the carefully calibrated soundscape summons a metaphysical masterpiece. This is a tour de force of audiobook production, and a dazzling realization of Saunders' unique authorial structure.”-Booklist

“The finished audiobook's tapestry of voices perfectly mirrors the novel.”-Entertainment Weekly

Praise for George Saunders

“No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”-Khaled Hosseini

“Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”-Junot Díaz

“George Saunders is a complete original. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”-Dave Eggers

“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”-Zadie Smith

“There is no one like him. He is an original-but everyone knows that.”-Lorrie Moore

“George Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We're lucky to have him.”-Jonathan Franzen

“An astoundingly tuned voice-graceful, dark, authentic, and funny-telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.”-Thomas Pynchon


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 08/08/2016
Saunders’s (Tenth of December) mesmerizing historical novel is also a moving ghost story. A Dantesque tour through a Georgetown cemetery teeming with spirits, the book takes place on a February night in 1862, when Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his recently interred 11-year-old son, Willie. The distraught Lincoln’s nocturnal visit has a “vivifying effect” on the graveyard’s spectral denizens, a gallery of grotesques who have chosen to loiter “in the Bardo”—a Tibetan term for a liminal state—rather than face final judgment. Among this community, which is still riven by racial and class divisions, are Roger Bevins III, who slashed his wrists after being spurned by a lover, and Hans Vollman, a “wooden-toothed forty-six-year-old printer” struck in the head by a falling beam shortly after marrying his young wife. As irritable, chatty, and bored in their purgatory as Beckett characters, Bevins and Vollman devote themselves to saving Willie from their fate: “The young ones,” Bevins explains, “are not meant to tarry.” Periodically interrupting the graveyard action are slyly arranged assemblies of historical accounts of the Lincoln era. These excerpts and Lincoln’s anguished musings compose a collage-like portrait of a wartime president burdened by private and public grief, mourning his son’s death as staggering battlefield reports test his (and the nation’s) resolve. Saunders’s enlivening imagination runs wild in detailing the ghosts’ bizarre manifestations, but melancholy is the novel’s dominant tone. Two sad strains, the spirits’ stubborn, nostalgic attachment to the world of the living and Lincoln’s monumental sorrow, make up a haunting American ballad that will inspire increased devotion among Saunders’s admirers. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

Praise for George Saunders

“No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini

“Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”—Junot Díaz

“George Saunders is a complete original. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers

“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”—Zadie Smith

“There is no one like him. He is an original—but everyone knows that.”—Lorrie Moore

“George Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We’re lucky to have him.”—Jonathan Franzen

“An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.”—Thomas Pynchon

Library Journal

★ 10/01/2016
Short story master Saunders (Tenth of December) eagerly awaited first novel may not be what fans of his dystopic, sf-like short stories have expected. It begins with snippets of historical fact, accompanied by citations—presumably both actual and fictionalized—that set the novel at the time of the death of Abraham Lincoln's son Willie. The entries shift to quips made by individuals, and we realize we are hearing conversations among spirits that haunt the Washington graveyard where Willie is buried. When Lincoln returns for a grieving nighttime visit, these apparitions attempt to reunite Willie's spirit with his father. Bardo is a term from Tibetan Buddhism referring to the transitional state between death and the next realm; the wraiths in this amorphous space chatter, float about, see visions, and change shape in disorienting ways. Yet they are confined, both by their previous lives and by a fear of final judgment, of which Saunders provides a truly horrifying glimpse. VERDICT A stunningly powerful work, both in its imagery and its intense focus on death, this remarkable work of historical fiction gives an intimate view of 19th-century fears and mores through the voices of the bardo's denizens. [See Prepub Alert, 6/29/16.]—Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2016-05-03
Short-story virtuoso Saunders' (Tenth of December, 2013, etc.) first novel is an exhilarating change of pace. The bardo is a key concept of Tibetan Buddhism: a middle, or liminal, spiritual landscape where we are sent between physical lives. It's also a fitting master metaphor for Saunders' first novel, which is about suspension: historical, personal, familial, and otherwise. The Lincoln of the title is our 16th president, sort of, although he is not yet dead. Rather, he is in a despair so deep it cannot be called mere mourning over his 11-year-old son, Willie, who died of typhoid in 1862. Saunders deftly interweaves historical accounts with his own fragmentary, multivoiced narration as young Willie is visited in the netherworld by his father, who somehow manages to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, at least temporarily. But the sneaky brilliance of the book is in the way Saunders uses these encounters—not so much to excavate an individual's sense of loss as to connect it to a more national state of disarray. 1862, after all, was the height of the Civil War, when the outcome was far from assured. Lincoln was widely seen as being out of his depth, "a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis." Among Saunders' most essential insights is that, in his grief over Willie, Lincoln began to develop a hard-edged empathy, out of which he decided that "the swiftest halt to the [war] (therefore the greatest mercy) might be the bloodiest." This is a hard truth, insisting that brutality now might save lives later, and it gives this novel a bitter moral edge. For those familiar with Saunders' astonishing short fiction, such complexity is hardly unexpected, although this book is a departure for him stylistically and formally; longer, yes, but also more of a collage, a convocation of voices that overlap and argue, enlarging the scope of the narrative. It is also ruthless and relentless in its evocation not only of Lincoln and his quandary, but also of the tenuous existential state shared by all of us. Lincoln, after all, has become a shade now, like all the ghosts who populate this book. "Strange, isn't it?" one character reflects. "To have dedicated one's life to a certain venture, neglecting other aspects of one's life, only to have that venture, in the end, amount to nothing at all, the products of one's labors utterly forgotten?" With this book, Saunders asserts a complex and disturbing vision in which society and cosmos blur.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940169382686
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 02/14/2017
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 589,190

Customer Reviews