Friday, January 7, 2022

Book Review: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Pages: 576
Pub. Date: October 5, 2021
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Viking
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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 work farm where he has just served a year 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 and head west 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.  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."


Emmett Watson has just been released from a work farm where he served a year for involuntary manslaughter.  He's eighteen and is he ready to move on with his life, but things aren't easy. His father just died and their farm is foreclosed.  Emmett has a plan though. He wants to take his younger brother with him and head west to start over.  His plan goes a little off course when he realizes that two of his friends from the work farm have escaped in the trunk of the car used to drop Emmett off.  Now he has these two guys to deal with; plus, his brother, Billy, wants to go to San Francisco.  Billy thinks their mother may be there and his only inkling is from a postcard he received from her years ago.  On top of it, the only thing that Emmett prizes is his old Studebaker, which will be their mode of transportation, but even that goes up in flames when his two friends "borrow" his car. Now he feels he has no choice but to follow them on a freight train along with his precocious brother.  That's where the adventure ensues for Emmett. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles is a well written and memorable historical novel that reads almost like a modern classic.  

I really liked Emmett from the start of The Lincoln Highway.  I appreciated his relationship with his brother Billy, who has proven to be very smart despite some of his quirks.  I really was hoping for a happy ending for the two brothers, but there's so much that was going wrong.  The two escaped inmates, Woolly and Duchess, also have plans of their own surrounding a rumor that Woolly's grandfather has hid a lot of money in their family's cabin.  Their relationship and their antics with the other guys reminded me of Twain novel as it definitely reads as a book from that time period.  Towles captured the this time period in America perfectly.

The Lincoln Highway is definitely an adventure. Emmett meets a cast of characters while being a "boxcar" boy with his brother.  They should have had his prized Studebaker to ride in, but thanks to Duchess and Woolly, they are left with the only option of hitching a ride on the train.  While on the train the real adventure begins in that they explore America, meet interesting people (my favorite was Ulysses), and learn a lot about life.

My only issue with The Lincoln Highway other than the fact that it's so lengthy was that fact that Towles's did not use quotes with his dialogue. He uses a dash and while that isn't really a big deal, I found it hard to get used to and I don't prefer from a stylistic perspective.

Nonetheless, I can't deny The Lincoln Highway's charm and Towles's brilliant writing.  So, if you are looking for smart historical novel that is reminiscent of a classic, look no further.  

Are you a fan of Towles? Have you read The Lincoln Highway yet? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 




  1. I am reading it right now and think I will move over to the audiobook because the lack normal grammatical functions. I am so daunted by the length, too. I'm not even a 5th of the way through so far.

    1. It took me quite awhile to get past the lack of quotation marks. It truly did. I heard the audio book is good! I hope you enjoy it! It is a long read, but worth it! Thanks for visiting, Anne!


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