The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles reviewed

The Lincoln Highway Book Cover The Lincoln Highway
Amor Towles
Random House UK, Cornerstone, Hutchinson Heinemann
October 21, 2021

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.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

The Lincoln Highway is set in the early 1950s in the USA and starts with Emmett returning to the family farm in the care of a warden. He has been in a juvenile detention centre and, while he has been in there, his father has died. As a result of his father’s death and some unfortunate seasons on the farm his first task is to sign over the property to the bank. He is then reunited with his younger brother (Billy) again who has been staying with neighbours until his return. For a number of reasons the brothers decide that a fresh start elsewhere would be good. Emmett has managed to keep his own car from repossession and so they plan to leave and travel the Lincoln Highway heading west as soon as possible.

However…! They have a surprise in store as two other inmates of the juvenile facility hitched a ride without the warden knowing and have other ideas about their direction of travel. Quite a variety of characters wander the pages of The Lincoln Highway and the narratives are from a number of perspectives including theirs. Of these two new arrivals, the main player initially is Duchess who definitely seems to be the leader. The other person is Woolly – he seems to be “other worldly” and is but is very good at it!

The story follows Emmett’s and the others travels, generally in a linear fashion (allowing for the characters reminiscing). I see that reviews of this tend to vary from “I loved it” to “it was too slow”. I actually understand both those positions. At times I felt as though I was reading a series short stories as each of the characters develop. The pace was at best fairly slow. However some of those stories were simply SO good that I was held by this. All the characters are credible and become very rounded over time. Even the more minor players do their job very well for me.

So this is a “road trip” from different perspectives? Probably but it does it very well for me and is something beyond that maybe. The Lincoln Highway contains quite a few powerful stories. If parts felt really quite slow that may say more about my patience than the book. I think if you relax and allow this book to engage you, you are in for a good read. The same applies if you like character driven narratives. If you want an action packed adventure this is probably not for your.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review