February 1862. The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. Days later, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body. From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a strange purgatory – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – where ghosts mingle, squabble and commiserate, and a monumental struggle erupts over his soul…
Written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace, Lincoln in the Bardo invents a thrilling new form and confirms him as one of the most important writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?