Goodreads summary: 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 returned to the crypt several times alone 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 thrilling, 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.
This book was utterly bizarre yet completely brilliant. The style takes a little getting used to, there was a lot of back-and-forth between narrating characters that reminded me of a Pinter play, but once I got into it, I loved it. All the characters were so distinct and memorable and downright ridiculous at points but I loved them. The book deals with some dark themes but in a lighthearted and comedic way that makes the whole novel really memorable.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Read for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt: a book based on a real person.