A Cross Country Trek Filled with Richly Imagined Settings, Fascinating Characters and Diverse Themes: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

20 Jul

If you are fond of the absorbing and adventurous novels of John Steinbeck or William Faulkner, I
highly recommend The Lincoln Highway by the New York Times bestselling author Amor
Towles, whose style is reminiscent of both of these classic authors.

Set in the 1950s, this mischievous, wise and wildly entertaining novel follows four boys who set
out to travel the country in search of a fresh start, three of them have just been
released from a juvenile work farm. Emmett and Billy want to find their mother in San Francisco
who left them when they were young, and Duchess and Woolly are on a hunt for a stashed wad
of cash in upstate New York. Sometimes their dreams are aligned, but often they are not. In other
words, adventure ensues that involves train hopping and car stealing and with that comes the
inevitability of trouble sparked from both good and bad intentions. Each of these young men is
chasing his dreams, but their past, whether violent or sad, are never far behind.

Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, these quirky yet endearing
characters draw us into their action-packed and compulsive hijinks as they travel throughout the
U.S. on the Lincoln Highway or I-80 and experience encounters filled with digressions, magic
tricks, sorry sagas, retributions, and the messy business of balancing accounts. Each character’s
back story is parceled out along the exciting journey and we develop feelings for them as they
relay the hardships they have endured as well as the joys.

Each character seems to provide a lesson for the others to learn. Billy, Emmett’s 8-year-old
brother, who seems to be wise beyond his years, is full of historical facts that he gained from
repeatedly reading “Professor Abernathe’s Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers…” He even has
the good fortune of meeting the wise Professor in his New York City office who autographs his
earmarked copy of the book. Woolly has been damaged by the untimely death of his father in
WWII, but possesses an unsurpassed kindness and childlike quality. Duchess is the rogue of the
group who grew up in an orphanage and has many old scores to settle along the journey. And
Emmett, the protagonist, is the level-headed and practical one who had the misfortune of serving
15 months in a juvenile work farm for involuntary manslaughter.

This multi-layered, propulsive novel is very satisfying and intriguing as the adventures unfold
during the cross country trek filled with an array of new and richly imagined settings, fascinating
characters, and diverse themes.

Written by:
Ethan Galvin
Information and Digital Services Librarian

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