The Lincoln Highway: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Viking
  • Published : 05 Oct 2021
  • Pages : 592
  • ISBN-10 : 0735222355
  • ISBN-13 : 9780735222359
  • Language : English

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel


A TODAY Show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

“Wise and wildly entertaining . . . permeated with light, wit, youth.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A classic that we will read for years to come.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Read with Jenna book club
“A real joyride . . . elegantly constructed and compulsively readable.” – NPR

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett's intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden's car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett's future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction—to the City of New York.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles's third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Lincoln Highway:

"[A] mischievous, wise and wildly entertaining novel . . . Towles goes all in on the kind of episodic, exuberant narrative haywire found in myth or Homeric epic . . . Each [character], Towles implies, is the central protagonist of an ongoing adventure that is both unique and universal . . . remarkably buoyant . . . permeated with light, wit, youth . . . Towles has snipped off a minuscule strand of existence-10 wayward days-and when we look through his lens we see that this brief interstice teems with stories, grand as legends." -New York Times Book Review

"Not only is it one of the most beautifully written books I have ever picked up, it's a story about hope, friendship and companionship in a time when we need it so much . . . Towles brilliantly captures the inner reality of each [character] with profound and poetic prose. All eight of them are incredible forces in literature . . . Amor Towles is one of those authors that I think will become a Steinbeck of our generation and [...] I think The Lincoln Highway will be a classic that we will read for years to come." -Jenna Bush Hager, Read With Jenna book club

"[A] real joyride . . . hitch onto this delightful tour de force and you'll be pulled straight through to the end, helpless against the inventive exuberance of Towles' storytelling . . . The Lincoln Highway is elegantly constructed and compulsively readable . . . action-packed . . . There's so much to enjoy in this generous novel packed with fantastic characters [...] and filled with digressions, magic tricks, sorry sagas, retributions, and the messy business of balancing accounts."

"Gorgeously crafted . . . Towles binds the novel with compassion and scrupulous detail . . . Towles draws a line between the social maladies of then and now, connecting the yearnings of his characters with our own volatile era. He does it with stylish, sophisticated storytelling . . . The novel embraces the contradictions of our character with a skillful hand, guiding the reader forward with 'a sensation of floating – like one who's being carried down a wide river on a warm summer day.'" -Washington Post

"[A] captivating piece of historical fiction . . . transporting . . . a rollicking cross-country adventure, rife with unforgettable characters, vivid scenery and suspense that will keep readers flying through the pages." -TIME

"[The] notion of American openness, of ever-fractalizing free will, coming up against the fickle realities of fate is the tension that powers Towles' exciting, entertaining […] picaresque . . . Stories can bring us back to ourselves, Towles seems to say, if ...

Readers Top Reviews

December's Child
Amor Towles is a fabulous writer. If you haven't read his books do so, you won't regret it. Amazon delivered the book early a lovely surprise these days. I had preordered at full price and was given the lower price when it dropped without having to even ask. Thank you
This is one of the best books I’ve read in some time. The characters come alive and you get lost in the fantastic story.
It's a very nice story, but it's for young people; I'm too old for it, so I had to skim and speed-read it. I did enjoy it in a superficial way. If I were under 15, I would have really enjoyed it. However, Amor Towles is one of my favorite authors because of Rules of Civility, one of my favorite books (it was for grown-ups, and the author's intelligence shows through it all). Still, 4 stars because he did such a good job of writing for that audience.
S. Corman
Once again, Amor Towles has managed to populate his novel with a cast of endearing and quirky characters that tug at your heart strings. "The Lincoln Highway", is a marvelous story that is at once an adventure novel while being a tale of hopes and dreams fulfilled or dashed. At the heart of the story are 2 young brothers, one a teenager and one a child of 8, who are about to set out to find their mother after the death of their father. The people they encounter, the ones who join their travels, are such interesting and unique characters, with big hearts and dreams all their own, that we become privy to. Amor Towles' writing is pure poetry. It lets you ride along with him on the wildest of adventures that leaves you breathless and satisfied. This book is a winner.!.
kathleen g
A long and winding road. It's 1954 and newly released from a work camp, Emmet wants nothing more than to pack up his little brother Billy and head to Texas where he plans to use his carpentry skills to renovate houses. Billy, however, wants to go to California where he believes their mother, who left the family, is living. Both of their plans are knocked sideways by the surprise appearance of Willy and Duchess, who escaped the camp in the trunk of the car that brought Emmet home. Duchess has hatched a plan to go to New York and take $150k from the safe in Wooly's family home= and he's steals Emmet's car, forcing Emmet and Billy onto a freight train where they meet Ulysses, who has been riding the rails since his own family disappeared during WWII. Duchess also wants to wreak revenge on or atone to several people and to find the father who abandoned and betrayed him. This is a story of seekers, of fathers and sons, of heroic tales, of the hidden places, of mental illness, and of hope. These are vivid characters, even if they might seem archetypes- it works. While the novel is set over a ten day period (it counts down from the day Emmet gets home and then documents each day in the journey to and around New York), each character's back story is parceled out along the way. I found myself wrapped up in this well told story thanks to Towles' storytelling and, frankly, a desire to know what would happen. And I was surprised. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Excellent read.

Short Excerpt Teaser

June 12, 1954-The drive from Salina to Morgen was three hours, and for much of it, Emmett hadn't said a word. For the first sixty miles or so, Warden Williams had made an effort at friendly conversation. He had told a few stories about his childhood back East and asked a few questions about Emmett's on the farm. But this was the last they'd be together, and Emmett didn't see much sense in going into all of that now. So when they crossed the border from Kansas into Nebraska and the warden turned on the radio, Emmett stared out the window at the prairie, keeping his thoughts to himself.

When they were five miles south of town, Emmett pointed through the windshield.

-You take that next right. It'll be the white house about four miles down the road.

The warden slowed his car and took the turn. They drove past the McKusker place, then the Andersens' with its matching pair of large red barns. A few minutes later they could see Emmett's house standing beside a small grove of oak trees about thirty yards from the road. To Emmett, all the houses in this part of the country looked like they'd been dropped from the sky. The Watson house just looked like it'd had a rougher landing. The roof line sagged on either side of the chimney and the window frames were slanted just enough that half the windows wouldn't quite open and the other half wouldn't quite shut. In another moment, they'd be able to see how the paint had been shaken right off the clapboard. But when they got within a hundred feet of the driveway, the warden pulled to the side of the road.

-Emmett, he said, with his hands on the wheel, before we drive in there's something I'd like to say.

That Warden Williams had something to say didn't come as much of a surprise. When Emmett had first arrived at Salina, the warden was a Hoosier named Ackerly, who wasn't inclined to put into words a piece of advice that could be delivered more efficiently with a stick. But Warden Williams was a modern man with a master's degree and good intentions and a framed photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt hanging behind his desk. He had notions that he'd gathered from books and experience, and he had plenty of words at his disposal to turn them into counsel.

-For some of the young men who come to Salina, he began, whatever series of events has brought them under our sphere of influence is just the beginning of a long journey through a life of trouble. They're boys who were never given much sense of right or wrong as children and who see little reason for learning it now. Whatever values or ambitions we try to instill in them will, in all likelihood, be cast aside the moment they walk out from under our gaze. Sadly, for these boys it is only a matter of time before they find themselves in the correctional facility at Topeka, or worse.

The warden turned to Emmett.

-What I'm getting at, Emmett, is that you are not one of them. We haven't known each other long, but from my time with you I can tell that that boy's death weighs heavily on your conscience. No one imagines what happened that night reflects either the spirit of malice or an expression of your character. It was the ugly side of chance. But as a civilized society, we ask that even those who have had an unintended hand in the misfortune of others pay some retribution. Of course, the payment of the retribution is in part to satisfy those who've suffered the brunt of the misfortune-like this boy's family. But we also require that it be paid for the benefit of the young man who was the agent of misfortune. So that by having the opportunity to pay his debt, he too can find some solace, some sense of atonement, and thus begin the process of renewal. Do you understand me, Emmett?

-I do, sir.

-I'm glad to hear it. I know you've got your brother to care for now and the immediate future may seem daunting; but you're a bright young man and you've got your whole life ahead of you. Having paid your debt in full, I just hope you'll make the most of your liberty.

-That's what I intend to do, Warden.

And in that moment, Emmett meant it. Because he agreed with most of what the warden said. He knew in the strongest of terms that his whole life was ahead of him and he knew that he needed to care for his brother. He knew too that he had been an agent of misfortune rather than its author. But he didn't agree that his debt had been paid in full. For no matter how much chance has played a role, when by your hands you have brought another man's time on earth to its end, to prove to the Almighty that you are worthy of his mercy, that shouldn't take any less than the rest of your life.

The warden put the car in gear and turned into the Watsons'. In the clearing by the front po...