What I started the night of the Reverse Readathon was Lincoln in the Bardo. A strange combination of the historic death of 11 year old Willy Lincoln and the Tibetan Book of the Dead – The Bardo Thodol. The book is supposed to be read to guide the consciousness of the recently deceased between incarnations. Oddly enough I read it many years ago, but don’t remember a darned thing about it, nor why I read it.
The book is entirely composed of quotes from various sources on the Lincolns, Willie’s death, and life in the White House, and the dialogue of various souls who are in possibly the strangest afterlife ever imagined. We are introduced to the two main entities, Bevins and Vollman, who reveal their pasts and their current situation. They believe they are not dead, but sick. Their bodies are in ‘sick boxes’ and they must go back to them every night. Each being has some obsession, some problem, some wish that ties them to their life in the previous place. Their particular issue affects what they do in this afterlife. Looking for love, waiting for their children to visit, everyone has their own thing. Into this weird world, arrives Willie Lincoln, dead at age 11 in 1862. Vollman and Bevins urge him not to stay. Children usually move on. Presumably they don’t have enough baggage to linger there, but Willie is not your ordinary kid. He thinks for himself and he thinks he should wait for his parents.
I don’t think I can do justice to the strangeness of this world into the borders of which Lincoln steps. It is very well written. It draws a remarkable picture of a bizarre and disturbing afterlife, remarkable characters revealed as flawed human beings and how they wound up where they are. A remarkable book well worth your time.