Tag Archives: Father – Son Relationships

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
Random House, 9780812995343, February 2017, 368pp.

The Short of It:

A unique and touching story about the loss of a child and what happens next.

The Rest of It:

Young Willie Lincoln dies at a very young age, leaving his father, President Lincoln and his mother Mary, to grieve over his loss.

But…

Willie’s spirit will not leave the cemetery in which he was interred, accompanied by others who have chosen to do the same. For one reason or another, they can’t seem to move out of this “bardo” into the next life yet they all vow to help young Willie because the thought of an innocent child spending eternity in such a grim place, is too much for these characters to bear.

Lincoln in the Bardo includes some very interesting, and sometimes even playful characters and almost reads like a play except that characters express the thoughts and feelings of other characters instead of themselves which takes a little getting used to. But after that, I found myself completely wrapped-up in the story of this young boy trying to find his way.

Things you should know:

  • You won’t learn much about President Lincoln from this novel.
  • Many of the works cited are fictional.
  • There are a lot of characters (160+)
  • Even though the afterlife is discussed, no one religion is emphasized.
  • You will be Googling for Civil War facts while reading, but I suggest you read first and Google later.
  • It helps to have a basic understanding of the Bardo and what it is.

Lincoln in the Bardo is beautifully written.  I highlighted many sentences and I don’t often do that. The subject matter is somewhat somber but it’s lightened-up by the playfulness of the characters. It’s tragic in that these characters can never correct their mistakes and as a result live forever in regret but it has stayed with me long after finishing it and the image of these spirits spending eternity in the cemetery is haunting. Check out this virtual reality experience to get a feel for what I am talking about:

Go to this page and scroll down to the bottom to view. Once there, click around to explore.

I know some readers are divided over the book but I loved it and my book club had plenty to discuss when we met. I plan to buy a copy as soon as the paperback comes out in February.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields
By Phillip Lewis
Hogarth Press, Hardcover, 9780451495648, March 2017, 368pp.

The Short of It:

A father and son story but really a story about family relationships and what it means to come home.

The Rest of It:

Henry Aster’s father returns to the small Appalachian town where he grew up and moves his family into a house with a past. The dark, immense home was once the scene of a grisly murder involving young children. Its looming presence foreshadowing the unraveling of the family to come.

From the description it sounds like a ghost story and maybe it is but not the kind you’d be expecting. This story focuses on the relationship between father and son, missed-opportunities, and at its heart, how we process grief and loss.

After a terrible loss, Henry’s father, a brilliant man trying to reinvent himself as a writer, struggles with what he’s been dealt. The entire family struggles with him but in different ways. Instead of coming together, they push each other away and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to witness.

There is a lot of good to be had in this novel. The writing is lovely but the Asters are readers so there are plenty of literary references that I jotted down. I love when books mention other books. But what I really loved was the slow build of what eventually causes the family to fall apart. There is a lot of tension in this novel which made the page turns go that much faster.

However, one section of the novel strayed from the main story which seemed a little out of left field but I was very happy to see how it fit into the story as a whole once I got to the end of the book. The final pages are gold. I reread them many times and loved them to pieces.

One of my favorite books of all time is A Separate Peace by John Knowles and although The Barrowfields is nothing like that book in story, the “coming-of-age” aspect of this novel reminds me a lot of A Separate Peace and yes, maybe even the main character reminds me of it, too.

I say, read it.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.