Lincoln in the Bardo
Because I homeschool with the Charlotte Mason method, I’m constantly reading old books, almost exclusively. I just don’t have time to read anything new. In my mind, I kind of think if it’s worth reading, it will be around in 20 years and I can read it then.
But this year has been a little different. Highly recommended, I picked up Lincoln in the Bardo and finished it on vacation.
Basically, historical fact: Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd lost a son, Willie, while Lincoln was in office. They thought he was going to get better and he didn’t. They laid his body in a mausoleum in D.C., intending to carry him back to Indiana when they moved back home. (Of course, Abraham and Willie’s bodies both went back together after the president’s assassination) President Lincoln really did slip into the mausoleum to hold Willie’s body a few times. George Saunders imagined the circumstances around that fact and wrote Lincoln in the Bardo.
The writing in this book is just amazing. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in the first half of a book. Plus it’s sprinkled with actual historical sources so I was constantly googling, “Did XYZ really happen?” (Some of the “historical sources” are actually fabricated, so I had to check everything.) I learned so much real information about Lincoln on my rabbit trails.
George Saunders touches on bits of humanity, most directly with Lincoln and his deceased son, in a startlingly accurate way. And that’s why I openly wept through the entire book (in the best way possible).
I would love to see another book with real journals and sources compiled in this way. I thought about writing one, but I don’t have time. So someone else get on it! And let me see how it goes.