Dear Great Book Guru, We were at the Women’s March in New York City last weekend with friends and family. It was an amazing display of unity and activism. The signs were wonderful- ranging from “Love Trumps Hate” to “Toddlers Against Tyranny.” As we marched, we talked about many things, including good choices for our book clubs. Someone mentioned a new novel about Lincoln that sounded interesting- any thoughts? Marching with the Many
Dear Marching, George Saunders’s LINCOLN IN THE BARDO is an excellent book club choice. Although central to the plot, Lincoln is only one of 166 characters we encounter in this very unusual, award- winning novel. Bardo is the place where the dead await their afterlife, possibly reincarnation, possibly damnation…. We meet Lincoln as he visits the crypt where his young son Willy lies after having just died of typhoid fever. The president’s grief is so intense that Willy cannot move on. The other ghosts- many who refuse to believe they are dead- share their life stories. There is the racist soldier who brags about the many women he raped, a miserly widow, a young mother who fears for her children, and a group of slaves that recount the horrors they have endured. Interspersed throughout are quotes from Lincoln scholars and journalists offering commentary on the events of the day. Saunders tells an extraordinary tale- both beautifully poetic and ribaldry humorous- of love, grief, and redemption. Highly recommended!