Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo

“His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever way one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be of no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help, or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.”

This is a highly acclaimed, experimental novel that I just couldn’t get into for some reason. I respect Saunders’ risk by writing this novel like a thesis paper, but it was hard for me to really connect with the story and the hundreds of characters because of its choppy, citation style. It is written about the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son and the transition to afterlife through various perspectives. There are some beautiful moments and some funny moments, but overall I just couldn’t connect.