Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

There has been a lot of discussion about this story, with people either loving it, or hating it. I myself seem to be stuck somewhere in the middle. I loved the story, and the whole idea of it, but the way it was written made it a difficult read for me. There are spoilers below, which I normally try to avoid, but they are necessary in this instance.

 

 

Lincoln in the Bardo Cover image
cover image property of https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com 

The premise of the story takes place on the night of young Willie Lincoln’s death, and the subsequent days that followed. Unable to bear the loss of his son, President Lincoln visits the crypt where Willie has been placed; several times.

The President is unaware that in this cemetery are many souls who have chosen to not move on, including his son. Only one of these souls is aware that they are all truly dead, while the others are all waiting for their loved ones to come back to get them, believing they are only sick. This place where the souls are lingering is what is known as the bardo.

The initial visit of the President has the others all hopeful that their loved ones will indeed come back for them.

The reason I had a hard time reading this story is the way the chapters are written. I literally was over two chapters in before I had any idea what was going on. The first chapter was of conversations between souls stuck in the bardo. I had no idea this is what I was reading. An example is below. Hans and Roger are lost souls, and I thought I was reading a normal conversation between two persons, such as you would read in any other story. I had no idea they were dead.

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The other chapters in between were all cited excerpts from many, many sources of stories that had been written concerning the Lincolns, the night Willie died, and the party that was taking place down stairs. The Lincoln’s had been assured Willie was indeed on the mend, so President Lincoln opted to not withdraw the hundreds of invitations to the dinner that had been sent out. Below is what these chapters look like. (I apologize for the blurriness of this page, I could not get a sharp photo for some reason, although I took it right after the photo above 😦 )

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As you can see (I hope!) after each excerpt is the source of what book, newspaper, conversation, or diary the information came from. I hate to admit, but I am the type of reader who cannot skip over reading something, so I found myself reading Every. Single. Citation. After a few chapters of this, I just let it go and ignored all the rest of the citations. If I hadn’t, I never would have gotten through it.

I loved the story, the true emotions expressed by not only what the President was going through as he continued to visit and hold his deceased son, but the emotions of those souls stuck in the bardo. The felt hope that their loved ones would also finally come for them, fear in moving on as happened to very few throughout the story, and the final realization that they were indeed dead.

I am curious as to what anyone else who has read this story thought! Did you realize right from the beginning what you were reading, or were you confused like I was?

What I’m Reading…

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.

It took me two short chapters to get what was going on, and although I love the storyline; I am still trying to get my bearings.

Much of this book is written using excerpts from other books, and the rest is the various persons stuck in the “bardo”, including Willie Lincoln who died at 11 years old.

I will post a full review when I finish; and those of you who have followed me know I love everything Abraham Lincoln. I read a great review of this book: now I just need to get my feet under it.

And honestly; I am questioning why I haven’t written my own Lincoln book yet.

Have you read this, and what did you think?

The Lincoln Conspiracy – Timothy L. O’Brien

I found this book while I was wandering up and down the aisles of my library looking for a different book. Most of you probably know I am a HUGE Lincoln fan (I may have a problem!), so I always like to read books that revolve around him, his family, or his presidency.

The Lincoln COnspiracy Cover Image 1

This one did not disappoint. Temple McFadden is a Detective in Washington D.C., and happens to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. From the beginning to the end, Temple, his wife Fiona, and their friend Augustus are doing everything in their power to protect two diaries. One is Mrs. Lincoln’s; the other belonged John Wilkes Booth.

They have assistance from some other friends, are double crossed, and every day seems to bring a new battle. It is believed that both diaries contain information on the possible real reason Mr. Lincoln was assassinated. Many want to see the diaries destroyed, in order to protect themselves and their business interests.

I always try to avoid spoilers at-all-costs, so I will have to leave this review here. If you enjoy history, this book is a must-read!

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum – Part II

So I promised to let you know the thing that moved me the most on my whole vacation. There were so many things that were emotional for me, including seeing Lincoln’s Tomb, and touring the replica of his Funeral train. But I have to say the museum has some of the best, most realistic displays I have ever seen. And when I walked around the corner after seeing a sign for the Ford Theater, it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I literally had to take a minute and compose myself, take a couple deep breaths, and tell myself I could get through this.

You would not expect something about a person you never met, and an event that happened 150 years ago, could personally affect you. It certainly did for me.

It seems innocent enough
It seems innocent enough
The realistic details on not only the settings but on the people is unbelievable. This is what I saw immediately after walking past the sign, and I lost my breath.
The realistic details on not only the settings but on the people is unbelievable. This is what I saw immediately after walking past the sign, and I lost my breath.

President and Mrs. Lincoln; Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were their guests.

President and Mrs. Lincoln; Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were their guests.
President and Mrs. Lincoln; Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris were their guests.
It only takes a second for everything to change.
It only takes a second for everything to change.
President Lincoln lying in State.
President Lincoln lying in State.

The Lincoln Museum and Library

Another wonderful day in Springfield. Being a research library, there was not much to see 😦 The museum, however, was amazing!

I was so emotionally moved by the displays here, it is definitely something everyone should experience once in their lives. It will be more than once for me, because I will be back!

Tomorrow, a post about what moved me the most in this museum.

Some of the amazing displays:

Abe courting Mary Todd
Abe courting Mary Todd
One of many debates
One of many debates
Mary being helped getting ready for an event
Mary being helped getting ready for an event
Saying goodbye to your child
Saying goodbye to your child
A Mother's love; a Mother's sorrow :-(
A Mother’s love; a Mother’s sorrow 😦

Day One of my Crazy Busy Weekend!

Daughter #2 has her prom tonight, and I know she is going to have a great time!

Kendall Junior Prom 4-24-2015 022

Daughter #1 is graduating from college tomorrow; Grand Valley State University, anyone? So another busy day.

And daughter #3 was supposed to be getting confirmed at our church on Sunday, but that seemed to have fell through (much of the fault is mine and my daughter’s), but the lack of communication has me really, REALLY upset.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library 1

So, as I get through this weekend, and then 2 and a 1/2 days of work next week, I am packing up 3 of my 4 girls, and heading to the land of Lincoln! So beyond excited to get to be a part of the Lincoln Funeral Train, and I will definitely be keeping you all updated. (If it bores you, just ignore me for a few days!)

I have 2 dinner tickets for next Saturday night to meet the man who has been building this train for several years, and be one of the first people to actually go inside the train!

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train 2015 map-from-brochure