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The Lincoln Highway

A Novel

by Amor Towles

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles X
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2021, 592 pages

    Mar 2023, 592 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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There are currently 8 reader reviews for The Lincoln Highway
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Oh, What a Book! A Literary Work of Genius--Extraordinary Plot and Unforgettable Cast of Characters
Oh, what a book. How should I describe it? Superior! A masterpiece! Extraordinary! Brilliant storytelling! A literary work of genius! (I could keep going, but you get the point.) This is a 10-star book in a five-star world. And best of all, everyone will love it—men, women, young, old.

Exquisitely and perfectly written by Amor Towles, this novel is an adventure, a testament to the power of friendship, and a coming-of-age story all wrapped up in an unputdownable tale that continued to surprise me at every turn.

There are four main characters, three of whom met each other while in a juvenile detention center in 1954 in Salina, Kansas: Emmett, Duchess, and Woolley. Added to this mix of 18-year-old boys is eight-year-old Billy, Emmett's precocious (and precious) little brother. Each has a fascinating backstory, which is gradually revealed throughout the novel. Emmett has been officially released from Salina, but his old life is forever gone. His mother disappeared soon after Billy's birth, his father has just died, and their Nebraska farm has been foreclosed. Emmett and Billy decide to drive to San Francisco by way of the Lincoln Highway—Emmett to start a new life for the two of them and Billy to find their mother. But surprise! Duchess and Woolley escaped from Salina by hitching a ride in the trunk of the car being driven by the warden to take Emmett home. One thing leads to another, and Duchess and Woolley "borrow" Emmett's car and money to drive to New York on the Lincoln Highway, while Emmett and Billy ride the rails with the hobos to chase after them. Their escapades are hilarious, heartbreaking, and unexpected. Each is on a quest just like the heroes of legends past to realize a special ambition. Oh, what a tale this is!

The book takes place over 10 days, and the chapter numbers (which, at first glance, are confusing) begin at 10 and count down to one, indicating a climactic progression. This is storytelling at its very best.

The characters in this book are like few that ever populate the pages of a novel in that each one is unique and each one is so real I felt like I really knew them. If nothing else, read this book just to meet the character of 8-year-old Billy. He will charm and delight and weave his way into your soul. If I were ever to make a list of my favorite book characters, Billy would be No. 1. Yes, Billy alone is worth the price of the book.

One final thought: Most authors have a kind of literary signature. That is, their books are similar in tone, style, and substance. Not Amor Towles! His three books to date could not be more different than if three wildly different people wrote them. Might this be the sign of a truly great author?
Power Reviewer

A story of a detour
THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY is the story of a detour from a plan to travel the Lincoln Highway west from Nebraska to California. Of the three books by Amor Towles that I’ve read, RULES OF CIVILITY, A GENTLEMEN IN MOSCOW, and now THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, this one is by far his best.

After Emmett’s stint in jail and his father‘s death, he and his little brother Billy decide to move to California. But after two of Emmett's old bunkmates, Duchess and Wooley, show up, Emmett and Billy have to first take them to New York, in the opposite direction. And this is their story, an adventure told by each one of them, plus some chapters told by Emmett's and Billy’s friend, Sally.

I loved their different perspectives of the same situations, I loved their dialogue, and I loved Towles' humor. Every bit of this is unpredictable, especially the end.

What a pleasure this book is! Its only negative is Towles’ lack of quotation marks, which I think is rude to the reader.
Tony C.

Such an Adventure
"The Lincoln Highway' by Amor Towles has a lot of ambition, telling a 576-page book from multiple points of view that takes place over ten days. He also does not use quotation marks, which takes a little adjusting. However, it is, at its core, a road trip that keeps going wrong. We meet 18-year-old Emmett, who has ostensibly lost both of his parents, so you almost hate the author for subjecting our hero to a slew of indignities.

To summarize the plot: Emmett just finished a year-long sentence for involuntary manslaughter at a work camp. He returns home to find that his father has passed and left the family farm in insurmountable debt. A warden drove him home and two of his friends stowed away in the trunk. Emmett and his brother Billy decide to go to California to find their mother. Unfortunately, the stowaways, Duchess and Woolly, have other plans.

Since we have multiple perspectives, we time-jump and learn a lot. A biblical story from a nun about how two forces weigh us down(the wrongs we have done to others and those iniquities that others have inflicted on us) drives the novel. These boys are obsessed with righting their wrongs and enacting revenge. But, ultimately, they are unsure about where they stand in that regard.
In my college theatre class, our instructor told us that Ibsen's "A Doll's House" climax occurs at the very end with a door slam. I felt the same way about "Little Fires Everywhere," but "The Lincoln Highway peaks late. The last eighty pages have much to say about the characters and their fatal flaws. You won't want to stop reading after that.

My favorite quote from professional reviewers is when they say that a work "insists on itself." Despite a few repeated quotes and themes, you will not know what the book is truly about until the end, which makes it all the more rewarding. Please put this in my top 5 for the year, as it probably has the best and most addicting story. I would love to share this with someone.
Power Reviewer

My best book of 2021
So enjoyed this story of mischievous boys and their misdirected road trip. All the characters were believable. A new favorite author for me.

Another Towles “Must Read”
“The Lincoln Highway” is another beautifully written book from Amor Towles. Admittedly, I was initially unsure about the book but about one-third into it I was totally engaged in the four boys’ individual tellings of how the fascinating events of their 10 day journey unfolded. While the book couldn’t be more different
than “A Gentleman in Moscow” in terms of plot, setting, and complexity the two books are similar in that remarkable and endearing characters come alive on the pages, Towles’ deep understanding of human nature and emotions evident in the well-defined personalities and actions of the characters. Also, like “A Gentleman in Moscow,” I found “The Lincoln Highway” uplifting, hopeful, and scattered with humor.

“The Lincoln Highway” will sit among my favorite books on my bookshelf to be read again.
Mitzi K.

What a Journey!
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles is quite a journey. I loved this 10-day road trip adventure set in 1954. With a nod to Huckleberry Finn, the tale follows four boys wanting to start a new life but with the tension of differing goals. Through the course of the story, we examine friendship, family, trust, justice, and self discovery. This is an amazing, beautifully layered novel. Fans of This Tender Land won’t want to miss this one!

I listened to the audio version. The cast does a wonderful job with the narration.

I loved A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility so I was looking forward to another great Amor Towles book. This book was a disappointment.

On the positive, Towles is a good writer, but too many negatives spoiled this book for me. It was disjointed and full of side characters that didn't add much to the story.

Why some of the characters were narrators and others weren't didn't make sense to me, The female characters weren't well-developed. The whole thing was too long.

As far as I'm concerned the car they were traveling in should have been a Rambler, because rambling is what this book was.

Not my cup of tea.
Margot P

Experiment that fails
Three stars for clever dialog and some heartwarming characters. However the novel rambles on, contains lots of repetition and far too many preposterous situations. Even if I was not subconsciously comparing this to his other two great novels, it would still be a novel that does not feel fresh or particularly original. The heroes and mythology references felt overdone and forced.
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