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Lincoln in the Bardo : a novel
2017
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  XXI.   Mouth at the worm's ear, Father said: We have loved each other well, dear Willie, but now, for reasons we cannot understand, that bond has been broken. But our bond can never be broken. As long as I live, you will always be with me, child. Then let out a sob Dear Father crying    That was hard to see    And no matter how I patted & kissed & made to console, it did no You were a joy, he said. Please know that. Know that you were a joy. To us. Every minute, every season, you were a--you did a good job. A good job of being a pleasure to know. Saying all this to the worm!    How I wished him to say it to me    And to feel his eyes on me    So I thought, all right, by Jim, I will get him to see me And in I went It was no bother at all    Say, it felt all right   Like I somewhat belonged in In there, held so tight, I was now partly also in Father And could know exactly what he was Could feel the way his long legs lay     How it is to have a beard      Taste coffee in the mouth and, though not thinking in words exactly, knew that the feel of him in my arms has done me good. It has. Is this wrong? Unholy? No, no, he is mine, he is ours, and therefore I must be, in that sense, a god in this; where he is concerned I may decide what is best. And I believe this has done me good. I remember him. Again. Who he was. I had forgotten some- what already. But here: his exact proportions, his suit smelling of him still, his forelock between my fingers, the heft of him familiar from when he would fall asleep in the parlor and I would carry him up to-- It has done me good. I believe it has. It is secret. A bit of secret weakness, that shores me up; in shoring me up, it makes it more likely that I shall do my duty in other matters; it hastens the end of this period of weakness; it harms no one; therefore, it is not wrong, and I shall take away from here this resolve: I may return as often as I like, telling no one, accepting whatever help it may bring me, until it helps me no more. Then Father touched his head to mine. Dear boy, he said, I will come again. That is a promise. willie lincoln Excerpted from Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, by Ganesh Sitaraman. (Vintage, $17.) The Constitution was predicated on having a thriving middle class, and today's widening inequality poses an existential threat. In this call to arms, Sitaraman excels in "helping understand how our forebears handled it and building a platform to think about it today," Angus Deaton wrote here. LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, by George Saunders. (Random House, $17.) In 1862, Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his young son Willie, where he encounters a chorus of ghosts in limbo. Their voices - of slaves and slavers, doomed soldiers, priests - narrate the country's descent into war; as Lincoln mourns he becomes a steward of the nation's tragedies. The novel won the 2017 Man Booker Prize. BLEAKER HOUSE: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World, by Nell Stevens. (Anchor, $17.) As part of her M.F.A. program, Stevens is awarded a fellowship to travel virtually anywhere; she chooses the remote Falkland Islands to complete a book. Her memoir traces the fits and starts of the writing process and shares some hard-won insight. "Surrounded by people, it is easy to feel alone," she writes. "Surrounded by penguins, less so." A SEPARATION, by Katie Kitamura. (Riverhead, $16.) An unnamed, 30-ish British narrator tracks down her estranged husband, Christopher, in Greece after her mother-in-law intervenes; Christopher is traced to the southern Peloponnese, where he's supposedly studying mourning rites - and where marital deception proliferates. Our reviewer, Fernanda Eberstadt, praised the novel's "radical disbelief - a disbelief, it appears, even in the power of art - that makes Kitamura's accomplished novel such a coolly unsettling work." THE VANQUISHED: WHY THE FIRST WORLD WAR FAILED TO END, by Robert Gerwarth. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.) In the years between 1918 and 1923, crumbling empires, economic depression (along with the lure of Communism) and flawed peace negotiations helped set the stage for another global conflict. Gerwarth's fine history examines the legacy of World War I, with a focus on the "mobilizing power" of defeat. THE HEIRS, by Susan Rieger. (Broadway, $16.) A cryptic final wish sets off a knotty family drama; as the Falkeses mourn their patriarch, Rupert, a woman emerges and claims he was the father of her two sons. The evidence is plausible enough, and his family struggles to interpret the news. "Rieger convinces us that knowing the truth - believe it or not - doesn't necessarily settle everything," Caroline Leavitt wrote here.

  Publishers Weekly Review

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 mélange 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. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * 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 <br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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?<br> <br> Praise for Lincoln in the Bardo <br> <br> "A luminous feat of generosity and humanism." --Colson Whitehead, The New York Times Book Review <br> <br> "A masterpiece." -- Zadie Smith <br> <br> "Ingenious . . . Saunders--well on his way toward becoming a twenty-first-century Twain--crafts an American patchwork of love and loss, giving shape to our foundational sorrows." -- Vogue <br> <br> "Saunders is the most humane American writer working today." --Harper's Magazine <br> <br> "The novel beats with a present-day urgency--a nation at war with itself, the unbearable grief of a father who has lost a child, and a howling congregation of ghosts, as divided in death as in life, unwilling to move on." -- Vanity Fair <br> <br> "A brilliant, Buddhist reimagining of an American story of great loss and great love." --Elle <br> <br> "Wildly imaginative" --Marie Claire <br> <br> "Mesmerizing . . . Dantesque . . . A haunting American ballad." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review) <br> <br> "Exhilarating . . . 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." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review) <br> <br> "It's unlike anything you've ever read, except that the grotesque humor, pathos, and, ultimately, human kindness at its core mark it as a work that could come only from Saunders." --The National
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