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Lincoln in the Bardo
368 pages; Random House
Grief guts us all, but rarely has it been elucidated with such nuance and brilliance as in Saunders's Civil War phantasmagoria. As the death toll escalates, Abraham Lincoln wanders the graveyard where his son Willie has just been buried. There he's haunted by a bevy of ghosts, including starched-collar clergymen, prim Victorian ladies, vengeful slaves, and Willie himself. Heartrending yet somehow hilarious, Saunders's zinger of an allegory holds a mirror to our perilous current moment.