Liberation Day by George Saunders

I reserved this book at the library because it appeared on so many Best of 2022 lists for books. I had forgotten that it took me three attempts to read Lincoln in the Bardo and this book of short stories was equally challenging to read. I felt like I had been dropped mid-way into the stories and had to scramble to find my way out, making some sense as I went. It wasn’t easy.

One of the stories I felt was more accessible was The Mom of Bold Action where the mum is a struggling writer, perhaps with a block, who turns everything into a story including the can opener she was holding, The Discontented Dog barking at the gate, all of them slightly bizarre and reminiscent of Mini Grey’s Traction Man. She even turns her son’s story of being pushed over by a man into a story where she takes revenge and throws out MAGA statements in her imagination. However, in real life, not the life in her head the story moves out of control and in the end she agrees to ‘let things go’ the bold action being all part of a story she told herself.

One of the stories, Love Letter, is a letter from a Grandfather to a Grandson where initials must be used in case anyone else is reading the letter as it slowly becomes clear that the grandson wants to help someone probably with immigration issues. And then we get to a section that makes it clear this is in the context of the Trump era

It did not seem (and please destroy this letter after you have read it) that someone so clownish could disrupt something so noble and time-tested and seemingly strong, something that had been with us literally every day of our lives. We had taken, in other words, a profound gift for granted. Did not know that the gift was a fluke, a chimera, a wonderful accident of consensu and mutual understanding.


The grandfather apologises for not paying enough attention, for letting things get to this state whilst he was doing jigsaws with his wife instead of objecting. It’s the ease with which you can lose democracy or financial stability (as we know all too well) or the welcoming hand in immigration.

This is not a cheery, upbeat set of stories but one that shows us trapped in our own lives often missing the important, pivotal points of a bigger life. Saunders plays with the form and structure of short stories and from that point of view I found the book very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *