Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: A Review


Be prepared for you mind to be stretched and your heart to be tugged.

Many of us wonder what it must be like once we leave this earthly world at the time of our death. As a Christian, I have faith in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and know that he died so that death itself maybe conquered and we won’t suffer. However, what comes after this? Even within the Christian faith, their are disagreements.

Saunders first novel brings us to the night of the burial of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie. This is historical fact that Willie died while Lincoln was in office and it paid a toll on both him and his wife Mary. Yet, Lincoln still had a country to run and was in the midst of the Civil War. Saunders ventures into that death and the evening of the burial. Lincoln spends most of the night in the cemetery, and through ghosts that inhabit his body, we hear the thoughts of Lincoln as he contemplates his sons death and what that may mean for his future in the White House.

Saunders takes great license as the story unfolds and can be quite provocative at times. The characters that live within the cemetery come to life on the pages as they converse with one another and even try to converse with Lincoln.

This is a thought provoking look into the time during the Civil War and especially into the perceived feelings of Lincoln. It brings about the true human struggles that we have with death. It also brings about hope and love.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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