The Lincoln Highway Book Review

“… in your time you shall do wrong unto others and others shall do wrong unto you. And these opposing wrongs will become your chains. The wrongs you have done unto others will be bound to you in the form of guilt, and the wrongs that others have done unto you in the form of indignation. The teachings of Jesus Christ Our Savior are there to free you from both. To free you from your guilt through atonement and from your indignation through forgiveness. Only once you have freed yourself from both of these chains may you begin to live your life with love in your heart and serenity in your step.”— Amor Towles, The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway is my favorite Amor Towles novel. Rules of Civility only earned three stars, and A Gentleman From Moscow was dull. I picked it up and read a few chapters, then set it down for a couple of months. Repeat. I finally finished it because so many people raved about it. Snooze. Both were stylistically complex, but just not my jam.

With The Lincoln Highway, the third time was the charm. Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel has an array of new and rich descriptive settings, and characters about whom I cared deeply. This thought-provoking coming-of-age story is inventive, dramatic, and bittersweet, and I read it with great enthusiasm. Here’s what it’s about:

In June 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother had abandoned the family years before, his father had just died, and the bank will foreclose the family farm upon. Emmett’s plan is to and head west with his eight-year-old brother, Billy, to California on the Lincoln Highway to search for their mother. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two inmates have hidden themselves in the warden’s trunk. They have a plan that will change Emmett’s future. What follows is a journey nobody expects. It is an exhilarating trip through 1950s Americana.

The book wasn’t perfect, though. The author repeated the same stories from different points of view, which I found to be an irritating writing convention. Thus, my rate went from a perfect 5 to 4.5 stars. The book has inspired me to take a road trip someday along the Lincoln Highway, a 3,389-mile coast-to-coast journey from New York City to San Francisco, California. I’ll also read Towles’s next book.

Published Date: October 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Read-alikes: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips; West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger.

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