Lincoln in the Bardo

  • by George Saunders
  • Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, full cast
  • 7 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. "My poor boy, he was too good for this earth," the president says at the time. "God has called him home." Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction's ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders' family, friends, and members of his publishing team, including, in order of their appearance:
Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN
David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III
Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS
George Saunders as THE REVEREND EVERLY THOMAS
Miranda July as MRS. ELIZABETH CRAWFORD
Lena Dunham as ELISE TRAYNOR
Ben Stiller as JACK MANDERS
Julianne Moore as JANE ELLIS
Susan Sarandon as MRS. ABIGAIL BLASS
Bradley Whitford as LT. CECIL STONE
Bill Hader as EDDIE BARON
Megan Mullally as BETSY BARON
Rainn Wilson as PERCIVAL “DASH” COLLIER
Jeff Tweedy as CAPTAIN WILLIAM PRINCE
Kat Dennings as MISS TAMARA DOOLITTLE
Jeffrey Tambor as PROFESSOR EDMUND BLOOMER
Mike O’Brien as LAWRENCE T. DECROIX
Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL
Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS
and Patrick Wilson as STANLEY “PERFESSER” LIPPERT
with Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN,
Mary Karr as MRS. ROSE MILLAND,
and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator

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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, February 2017 - Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever listened to - and make no mistake, this one is meant to be listened to. One hundred and sixty-six individual narrators (led by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and the author George Saunders) came together to voice this wildly surreal audiobook. And while that might sound like a production stunt, the breadth of voices was necessary to create the immersive cacophony effect (almost a Greek chorus of Americana) - because Saunders' first full-length novel, a hugely ambitious work that delivers the most humbling and accurate portrait of grief I've ever encountered, is entirely voiced by ghosts. The listener finds himself in the Georgetown Cometary, where young Willie Lincoln has been laid to rest and his grieving father (the president) keeps returning in a state of stumbling and stricken shambles, to the shocked confusion of the self-unaware dead. Perhaps most interestingly, the real events of the time (those things happening outside of the graveyard) are depicted entirely through historical snippets and citations so that the listener comes eventually to realize that these are also merely the impressions of the dead, even if not fictional. —Emily, Audible Editor

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Otherworldly Brilliance

Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever listened to - and make no mistake - this one is meant to be listened to. 166 individual narrators (led by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, author George Saunders, and the incomparably sweet Kirby Heyborne as Willie) came together to voice this wildly surreal audiobook. And while that might sound like a production stunt, the breadth of voices is necessary to create the immersive cacophony effect (almost a Greek chorus of Americana) - because Saunders' first full-length novel, a hugely ambitious work that delivers a devastatingly accurate portrait of grief, is entirely voiced by ghosts.

The listener finds himself in a Georgetown Cemetary where young Willie Lincoln has just been laid to rest. The Civil War has only just begun, and Willie's grieving father (the president) returns to the graveyard in a state of stumbling and stricken shambles to look at and hold the body of his boy. This unorthodox behavior from a visitor triggers shocked confusion among the self-unaware dead who wonder what it means for their own fates. In rounding out his tale, Saunders depicts the real events of the time (those things happening outside of the graveyard) entirely through historical snippets and citations, and you eventually come to realize that these are also the impressions of the dead. The effect is such that the listener feels like he's spying in on a world completely outside of time, and defined only by the shifting perceptions of ethereal spirits. It's quite literally otherworldly, but the concerns of the voices feel recognizable, real, and at times contemporary, as every stratum of society is represented among the cast. Without a doubt this is one of the strangest books in our store - but please do not be discouraged by its oddity. There's some serious genius here.
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- Emily - Audible

Less is More

It took me a while to get into this book and to understand how it was being told. It redeemed itself towards the end, but the first two hours I contemplated just throwing in the towel. I'm not sure if audio format works well for what this book was trying to convey... especially with the chapters of quotes pulled from letters and diaries. Switching readers after 5 words was distracting at times, same with the automated voice. Having 166 readers seemed too many. I did find myself looking forward to the actual story though... I'm still digesting this book and might grow to like it the more I think about it, but one thing is for sure, way too much use of the word said. "Jesus! There are far better ways to show dialogue," I bellowed while trying not to drive my car into the back of the BMW in front of me. "Watch where you are going," the driver shrieked.
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- Amanda Nordes

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-14-2017
  • Publisher: Random House Audio