Lincoln in the Bardo: SPOILERS

Alice suggested we start a thread in the Lounge to discuss the book without fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t read it. There is a lot to discuss! It’s not a mystery novel, but it’s puzzling and ingenious and it is really best to read it before hearing anything about it, so if you’re planning to read it, GO NO FURTHER. I’d also advise you not to read any reviews of the book.

Any explanation of it dilutes the impact, I think. Here’s a link to the MDK blog post about the book:

As I read it, I kept wondering where George Saunders gets his imagery and language. It’s all so rich and has the weird specificity of dreams, in which the dreamer accepts things like I’m at Whole Foods With George Clooney And They’re Out of Kombucha.

I would like an annotated version of the book that identifies which of the quoted historical references are real. I am hoping that some of the odder ones are real.

It reminds me of a book called The Rubber Room, which collects images of Lincoln’s deathbed showing more and more people in the room with him as time goes by and more people claim to have been there. If I hadn’t seen that book with my own eyes I would think George Saunders had made it up.

I would love to talk about the book and audiobook here!

1 Like

[squinting so as not to read anything you’ve written up there because I haven’t read the book yet] I can’t wait to read this! It has been sitting on my desk patiently.

1 Like


(Lol the Lounge is telling me that the above is not a complete sentence so it is not letting me post it, so I am writing more here just to fool the Lounge.)


We are a Lounge of complete sentences, punctuation, capitalization, lots
and lots and lots of words. None of this 140-character business. We are 140


Slate’s Audio Book Club (podcast) discusses Lincoln in the Bardo on their April 29th podcast. I haven’t listened to it yet as I’ve just started the book but I’ve enjoyed past podcasts. This month’s book is the Handmaid’s Tale.

I have read the book, and I am something like #32 in line for the audio book at my library. I was so intrigued after reading there are 166 narrators. I can’t wait.

Thank you, Kay!
Reiterating: SPOLERS ahead!


I’d love to have a marathon knitting session and talk about this book with all of you. For now I’ll share a question that has burned hottest/most anxiously for me. It is this: Was Rev. Thomas’s initial experience of the afterlife (the “quick check” scene) actually what he (and all of them) would face once he left the graveyard?

On one hand, it is not what Willie experienced (Allowed!). So either everyone’s is the same and it is Willie’s, and Rev. T’s was a projected fear and not the real afterlife, OR everyone has their own, and they are all different. The latter hypothesis is perhaps supported by Mr. Baron’s matterlightblooming being dingy grey and not the usual luminous white. The water is further muddied by the roving spirit conglomeration that attacks spirits who were young when they died. (Next question: what the heck is that all about?)

Why would Rev. T’s experience go “out of order?” And do the Angels who talk to him represent that terrible judgement place?

I was really preoccupied with this question after reading, eager to hear all of your thoughts!

The mutual attachment between parent and child under those circumstances just…tore me to pieces. And the idea that Willie’s attachment might actually be endangering his eternal soul? Too cruel. His apparent ultimate joyful connection to the Universe (and his inspiring sense of rightness and courage in reaching it) helped.

I’ll stop there for now…

I listened to the book and was just entranced(is that a word) - there are so many things to discuss but I will forever remember Willie saying to the crowd - you know you are dead! They did not want to hear it but they needed to hear it - what ties people to earth can be so superfluous. The need for revenge - the need to maintain a garden -the need for sex - poor man - I think this will be one of the better books i read this year. His short stories were not great so I had approached this book with great worry - the stories were SAD! This book had joy with the sadness -Willie at the end was ready to embrace his end!

Ms. Morris, YES, agreed! Some joy with Willie’s choice. Joy amongst sadness is pretty thin on the ground with Saunders’ other works. That said, I HEART “Tenth of December.”

The Tenth of December was just over the top for me - my favorite story was one of three pages -and it was just not as dreadful as the others! But thats why Baskins-Robbins has all those flavors of ice cream - everyone can be happy!

Yes, agreed :D! :heart:

Thank You Kay… you inspired me to get this audio book… what a richly rewarding experience! I can’t imagine that reading the words could be as satisfying and entertaining as hearing that amazing cast of voices. Such a multitude of images went through my head. The backstories of each ghost - the quiet, grief-stricken moments, the regrets, the life/death changing revelations, it all just rolled over me. Saw George Saunders interviewed on Charlie Rose… what a introspective and open mind. I will listen to this book again sometime soon - it left me feeing deeply enriched. Now, back to my knitting!

So glad you enjoyed. I felt the same way: enriched, and somehow refreshed. Reading the book is a different experience but I highly recommend it also.

i like it so much, this book is quite interesting,

1 Like

I tried to listen to this book but it felt too disconnected and I couldn’t make sense of it, so I returned it. Maybe it will be easier for me to read a written version.

Well, FFS, I finally finished reading the book (slow reader, and fine with it) and now I see all the chat about the audio book, which seems glorious. JEFF TWEEDY, Julianne Moore, and Miranda July!!! Off to fire up the audible free trial. I am glad that I read it first; I’m usually not much of an audiobook person and I loved the formatting of the book, so I’m glad I didn’t miss that. The book was good for me–grief, the afterlife from a wholly new perspective, Lincoln as a father, a president, and a leader (insert sad comparisons to the current president here), and the lovely ending. It made me wonder if I have anyone on board.


I read it first, then listened, and I too am glad I got to puzzle slowly through the book on my own before listening to the wonderful voices. The two versions are very different and both good.

1 Like

I too, felt disconnected at first reading this book, but once I just let go and read it more as poetry than a novel I was able to get over that. I’m curious about the audio, never use those but think this one would be really interesting to hear.

1 Like

Announced today - George Saunders has won the prestigious 2017 Man Booker Prize. Well deserved.

Kay, thank you again for your literary advice! :open_book:


I’m so thrilled about this. A friend went to visit Oak Hill cemetery and took pictures of the Carroll crypt and the plaque regarding Willie Lincoln’s “residence” there. So strange and moving.