I was struck by a quote from Saunders in the New Yorker that Domestico offers in the interview:
"I thank [Trump] for this: I've never before imagined America as fragile, as an experiment that could, within my very lifetime, fail. But I imagine it that way now."
The fragility of the American Experiment seems to have been on Saunders' mind a lot as he wrote his novel. Toward the end of the book, the fragility of the union, the American experiment, haunts a grief-stricken Abraham Lincoln as he visits his son Willie's tomb:
Across the sea fat kings watched and were gleeful, that something begun so well had now gone off the rails (as down South similar kings watched), and if it went off the rails, so went the whole kit, forever, and if someone ever thought to start it up again, well it would be said (and said truly): The rabble cannot manage itself.
Well, the rabble could. The rabble would.
He would lead the rabble in managing.
The thing would be won.
And, of course, we know the thing was won. Then. But Saunders, intentionally or not, forces the reader to wonder whether it was won for all time and whether the "rabble," which is all of us in our deeply flawed and imperfect state, can keep it won. And whether it's even worth keeping at all.
Lincoln in the Bardo is a timely novel to ponder in this deeply divided time.
--Jean Hughes Raber