Man Booker Prize Winner 2017
An inventive treatment of the grief of President Lincoln on losing his son, Willie, to typhoid fever at the start of the civil war in 1862. The story takes place during one night; it is after the funeral and Lincoln returns to the crypt to hold his dead son in his arms. The narrative is comprised not only of the Lincolns, but a multitude of ghosts, whose voices describe their past lives, their deaths and where they believe they are going. Among these is Willie, unwilling to pass from the Bardo (which is the transient state of being between death and rebirth), despite their urgings, because his father has promised to return the following day. There are also excerpts of interspersed historical fact and the curious blurring of fact and fiction, reality and imagination are themes Saunders explores. At the core it is a story of grief; the love of a father for his son, and the transient nature of life. The writing is beautiful, and while I struggled with some of the voices, I could appreciate the overall: a challenging yet enriching read.