I have never read any of George Saunders’s short stories, so I was hardly eagerly awaiting his debut novel. Honestly, when I got hold of this proof, I had no idea what an exciting thing I’d been given. My boyfriend read it and loved it back in October, and then I heard Nick Offerman talking about how incredible it was on Book Shambles. Essentially, I gradually came to the realisation that what I had, just sitting on my shelf, ought to be a priority.
Oh. My. God. This book is mindblowing. It’s pretty hefty, but I absolutely tore through it because I literally could not stop reading. It’s pretty much entirely set over the course of a single night, the night Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie is buried. The majority of the characters are dead, and buried in the graveyard along with Willie, but haven’t moved on yet. It’s very moving, and the characters are vivid and funny and touching.
The thing that is incredible about this book is the form. It’s written in dozens of voices, so sometimes you’ll be with a character for a couple of pages, or sometimes you’ll only get a sentence. The voices flow in and out of each other flawlessly, sometimes transitioning mid-sentence. The majority of the voices are those of the inhabitants of the graveyard, but some chapters are written in historical sources, some real and some not. I don’t even know how to put into words how incredible this book is: it’s like George Saunders has invented a new form, and we don’t yet know how to talk about it.
It’s about life and death and grief and love, and acceptance. It’s a book that you will think about for a long, long time after you read it, and one that I want to force on everyone I know because I need other people to scream incoherently with me about how good it is.