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Editorial 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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Publisher's Summary

Winner, 2018 APA Audie Awards - Audiobook of the Year
Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize 
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 11-year-old son, Willie, is gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. 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 includes, in order of their appearance: 
Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN
David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III
Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS
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
Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL
Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS
with Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN,
and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator 
" Lincoln in the Bardo sets a new standard for cast recordings in its structure, in its performances, and in its boldness. Now, let's see who answers the challenge." ( Chicago Tribune);"The result is an auditory experience unlike any other, where the awareness of individual voices disappears while the carefully calibrated soundscape summons a metaphysical masterpiece. This is a tour de force of audiobook production, and a dazzling realization of Saunders' unique authorial structure." ( Booklist) ;"The finished audiobook's tapestry of voices perfectly mirrors the novel." ( Entertainment Weekly)
©2017 George Saunders (P)2017 Random House Audio
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Betty Vance on 10-02-17

George Saunders answer to Dante's Inferno

I've not listened to many books but it's hard to imagine one that could be more entertaining than Lincoln. The actors speaking for the characters make the story seem more like a play. A truly wonderful play.
The images that are conjured up by George Saunders are so vivid ,heartbreaking , and comical at the same time. This book found me when I was beginning my journey of grief over the sudden loss of my 35 year old disabled daughter. The scene in the beginning where the spirit of Willy is standing with his father with his arm around his him comforting him gave me comfort and made me feel that my daughter was sitting close to me with her arm around me.
It also gave me a glimmer of hope that if President Lincoln could endure this terrible loss and go on eventually with his life maybe so could I. It's been 6 months now and I've listened to the book gradually during these months and just finished it tonight. This book has been one of the most important pieces of my healing. My deepest thanks to George Saunders for this precious gift.
Betty Reardon Vance

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107 of 115 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Thomas More on 02-24-17

A Mixed Bag

I found the audiobook to be frustrating, to say the least. I love Saunders' work and know that the printed version of this novel is likely much better than this audiobook version indicates. As is, there are some good narrators (Nick Offerman), some decent ones (David Sedaris), and some utterly terrible ones, who feel like they are reading their lines with a gun to their heads. I think the stilted language of the 1860s was too much an impediment to some of these voices. Another problem is that the actors were not recording a shared experience - in other words, they were not together at the time and were not able to fully feed off each other's lines and work as a true ensemble. Few actors enjoy working under those conditions. The story rambles and ambles about, speakers are interrupted, and there is no cohesive emotional center sustained throughout. I felt at times that I was in the audience of a bad high school play. That said, there are some beautiful moments and funny moments, too. Too bad they're buried amidst the mess.

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88 of 96 people found this review helpful

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