Every now and then a work of art comes along that challenges what you thought could be done. It rips apart your expectations and then conjures up something magical to tug at your heartstrings and blow your mind. This story about grief, love and regret did that for me. On the surface, it tells the true story of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie. Combining real eye-witness accounts from the time and invented accounts from spirits at the gravesite, the novel weaves together the loss felt by Lincoln and the horrors of Civil War America with the personal sorrow everyone feels after a death. The result? A beautiful elegy for human experience.
Laura (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)
After the death of his beloved son, Willie, Abraham Lincoln holds vigil in the crypt where the child's body is laid to rest. All the while, Willie lingers in the Bardo, a waiting-room between life and death, where spirits, demons and other mysterious forces of the cosmos contend for his soul. Throughout the narrative, the wandering spirits of the Bardo tell their stories and share their regrets, a Greek chorus evoking the poignant, bitter and humorous aspects of the human experience. The style of the book is experimental, piecing together historical texts both real and invented and characters' dialogue into what is sometimes reminiscent of a play and sometimes reads like free-form poetry or a hypnotic incantation . This unusual narrative voice can be jarring at first, since it defies many of the conventions one expects in historical fiction, but with time, it pays off richly, immersing you in the curious alternate reality of the Bardo. If you're looking for a title that will challenge your expectations of the novel, you will love Lincoln in the Bardo.
Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)