Bardo | Critical Book Review

Bardo, penned by Joseph Edwin Haeger, delves into the perplexing realm between death and rebirth, weaving a narrative web of vengeance and grappling with the burden of a guilt-laden existence.

The striking aspect of Bardo is its unique and purposefully disorienting nonlinear structure. Beginning with section 18 and subsequently leaping to section 26, Haeger provides little clarification for this scattered order. The reader is left to immerse themselves in the first-person narrator’s bewildered mindset, unraveling the details surrounding the loss of his son and his simmering rage towards the drug-addled perpetrators. In a narrative landscape steeped in drugs and violence, Bardo takes an unexpectedly serene approach, guiding readers through ethereal landscapes with a contemplative tone.

Uncertainty in Retribution

The plot unfolds with a father witnessing the execution of his son’s alleged killer. However, doubts linger—what if the condemned man wasn’t the true murderer? The novella weaves between the perspectives of the grieving father and the possibly innocent murderer, exploring a complex tapestry of guilt, regret, and the looming fear of mortality. As past and present intertwine, Bardo prompts reflection on the blurred boundaries of innocence, adding layers of complexity to the characters’ journeys.

Reader as Architect of Connections

With its brief sections, ranging from a single sentence to two pages, and a structure that traverses time, place, and perspective without clear signposts, Bardo demands active engagement from the reader. While the narrative may not facilitate a leisurely stroll, the effort invested yields substantial rewards. Subsequent readings expose deeper emotional nuances, mirroring the dreamlike prose and the deliberate disjunctions in cause and effect. The narrators refrain from spoon-feeding the plot, yet ensure that, by the story’s end, readers comprehend not only the plot intricacies but also the emotional undercurrents and intentions.

Haeger’s Mastery of the Novella Form

Joseph Edwin Haeger adeptly harnesses the novella format in Bardo. Despite its brevity, the narrative beckons to be consumed in a single sitting, punctuated by moments that compel readers to pause and contemplate the devoured words. The expansive scope, featuring multiple viewpoints and a timeline spanning a lifetime, imparts a sense of grandiosity to the 90-page novella. Haeger skillfully packs in a multitude of questions and considerations, leaving readers immersed in contemplation for hours, perhaps days after concluding this concise yet profound exploration of depth and meaning. In a mere 90 pages, Haeger transforms Bardo into a literary gem that resonates far beyond its physical dimensions.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, and ISBN:

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Thirty West PublishingMystery, Thriller & Suspense96 pages9798986110578

Bardo, penned by Joseph Edwin Haeger, delves into the perplexing realm between death and rebirth, weaving a narrative web of vengeance and grappling with the burden of a guilt-laden existence. The striking aspect of Bardo is its unique and purposefully disorienting nonlinear structure. Beginning with section 18 and subsequently leaping to section 26, Haeger provides…