Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Audiobook CD - 2017
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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. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. 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.


From Library Staff

READ BY: LARGE CAST - from Don Cheadle to Megan Mullally to Ben Stiller and much more!..........Traces a night of solitary mourning and reflection as experienced by the sixteenth president after the death of his eleven-year-old son at the dawn of the Civil War.

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Jul 23, 2020

My favorite cast of characters on the audiobook. A great listen!

Jun 28, 2019

Would some reader please explain to me why this book is listed under my search for books by Megan Miranda??? Is it an error by the software system or is this the same subject? Very confusing to me if I'm in a search for one specific author.

May 19, 2019

What a superb book. George Saunders really hit this one out of the park for me. I found myself sitting for a while in my car, even after my commute ended, just to wrap up listening to the chapter that I was on. The fact that Saunders used multiple voice actors, for the book-on-tape version, really added to the experience. Actors such as Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec) and Megan Mullaly (Will and Grace) both add a layer with their own interpretations of the myriad of characters present in the book.

I feel that Saunders was also very loyal to preserving the time period. I found that the historically relevant musings, desires and goals in of each of the Oak Hill Cemetery's denizens were made relatable simply by the telling and framing of the story. Saunders also does a great job of making Lincoln's inner monologue extremely sympathetic to the listener. Saunders explores Lincoln's grief at the death of his beloved son Willie and his battles with depression in an in-depth and appropriately entertaining way.

I was also impressed by Saunders' use of diverse religious ideas. Namely the idea of setting the book in the Bardo of the Oak Hill Cemetery, a Buddhist concept of a intermediate "purgatory" between existences. Saunders presentation of the characters understanding of their situation adds to the suspense. The characters spotty understanding of the realm they inhabit also allows the reader, or listener, to read into the story their own interpretations.

The conclusion of the story left me feeling warm and life affirmed. I would definitely recommend this book and especially the audio version to a friend.

Mar 13, 2019

George Saunders' novels are always unique. This concerns itself with the after-life, termed the Bardo in the Tibetan Book of the Dead ("Bardo Thodol". That book is not mentioned in this novel, but it is the immediate after-life, where souls can be stuck. Here it is located in a cemetery with many souls involved, some of whom have been there for some time. They move through the landscape and interact in a manner that is at least partially - Dante meets Samuel Beckett. The way that all directly express themselves reminds one of Dante, even though they all do not know they will not return to that "previous place", as it is called. But in this case their feeling of hopelessness has dialogue like the characters in a Beckett play. "Nothing to be done" from "Waiting for Godot" turns into "Nothing to be done about it. Nothing ever to have been done about it." But hold on - what about Lincoln? Well, he and his son who has just died are at the heart of the story. Lincoln's grief is so strong that it extends his connection to his son into the afterlife. The material realities of the world are presented in a matter-of-fact way with cited quotations of primary source material from the time period. This makes an interesting contrast with the souls who have trouble moving on from a lost life that was in most cases violent and disturbing. The dispossessed, the lost, those who died in the 19th century, grief, anxieties, hopes, wishes, aspirations - Saunders pulls all these together in a convincing and unforgettable way. I also enjoyed listening to the Audio book, which has many readers (including the author and David Sedaris) to read all of the voices and historical quotations. It was very helpful in making one's way through the many voices and bringing the novel closer to us.

Dec 17, 2018

I could not even finish the first disk of this book. While the first chapter was charming and a great start to something, it was immediately followed by taking "excerpts" ad nauseam about a party that the Lincoln's were hosting, then a funeral which is where I had to stop listening. No story. Just disparate accounts of the event. I actually got angry at the book for not moving on from this and being forced to listen to "'Long-winded quote' cited: someones from something: date" after each of the seemingly hundreds of accounts. Maybe if I'd been reading it, I could have just skimmed these, but it was like listening to bibliographic citations. If I wanted textbooks about the Lincolns, I would have picked them. As it stood, this was simply agony.

JCLChrisK Oct 17, 2018

Strange, fascinating, moving, disturbing, challenging, poignant, and human. Oh, so very human.

This is a book that delves deep into the human condition and the particular human penchant for storytelling. It presents a myriad cast of characters, each obsessed with his or her own story. With telling it to others. And to living it out, over and over. They are stuck in their stories. Limited by them. Blinded by them. Stories of regret, sorrow, and unfinished lives. Unhappy stories.

Altogether, the chorus of voices communicates the complexities, the at times confusing paradoxical intricacies, of humanness. Though it can be a painful struggle at times to wade through the requisite suffering, there is balancing hope, joy, and compassion as a reward.

The audio production is laudable and impressive.

Jul 30, 2018

I read the book and found it the most unusual book I have read in some time. Talked with a friend of mine and she encouraged me to listen to the audio version. The incredible cast of readers makes the book come to life and really made me appreciate George Saunders work all over again. Most extraordinary book I've ever listened to or read.

profdavis Jun 13, 2018

Lincoln in the Bardo belongs to that rarest of fantasy sub-genres, novels about the society of ghosts living in a cemetery. It is one of the most oddly structured novels I have read, consisting entirely of first person narration by multiple characters, interspersed with brief quotes from historical books and articles about Abraham Lincoln. The audio version is a remarkable accomplishment, using hundreds of speakers to voice all the different narrators. The three main characters are voiced by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and the author George Saunders. The plot revolves around the death of Lincoln's 11 year old son Willie Lincoln in 1862. The novel is a meditation on death and the necessity of facing the reality of death and moving on, for both the living and the dead.

Mar 21, 2018

Audio version was even more difficult to get into than the print version-I tried both and finished neither.

Mar 13, 2018

An altogether strange novel with an amazing premise. Add to that an audiobook featuring 166 in the cast and you've got an experience.

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JCLChrisK Oct 17, 2018

All were in sorrow, or had been, or soon would be. It was the nature of things. Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true. At the core of each lay suffering; our eventual end, the many losses we must experience on the way to that end. We must try to see one another in this way. As suffering, limited beings, perennially outmatched by circumstances, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces.


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