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All booksHistorical fictionThe Lincoln Highway
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Historical fiction

The Lincoln Highway

Repeat author
Amor Towles is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include A Gentleman in Moscow and The Rules of Civility.

by Amor Towles

Quick take

In this 1950s-set novel, shenanigans ensue when Emmett Watson hits the open road with two friends and a brother in tow.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Underdog

    Underdog

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Roadtrip

    Roadtrip

Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator

FYI

This book contains mentions of suicide.

Why I love it

Andrew J. Graff
Author, Raft of Stars

I’m always game for a quest. Give me a group of underdogs with a sea or continent to cross, the promise of treasure and an arduous road, and I’m all in. The stakes are even higher when the underdogs are kids or teens—adventures like This Tender Land, classics like Huckleberry Finn. When I opened the first pages of Amor Towles’s newest novel, The Lincoln Highway, I had a feeling I was in for just this kind of experience—bighearted and hopeful, perilous and enlightening. The story delivered on all fronts.

I can’t remember the last time I cared more about the heroes of a book so thoroughly and quickly. The Lincoln Highway begins with eighteen-year-old Emmett, recently returned from juvenile detention in 1954, reuniting with his little brother, Billy, on their foreclosed Nebraska farm. The two boys are alone, but have each other. Emmett has big reasons to leave the state, and a plan. Billy has a plan too, a journey mapped by a mysterious series of postcards laid in a line on the kitchen table. When two other characters enter the story—acquaintances from Emmett’s recent past named Woolly and Duchess—a third path opens.

I loved these characters. I loved the landscape, the rich tapestry of mid-century Americana, prairies and cities. And I loved this quest’s opening promise: Four boys with places to be standing in a barn, sliding the tarp off of Emmett’s sole possession, a baby blue Studebaker, the dusty roads calling like a treasure map. I was thrilled to hit the road with this determined crew.

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Synopsis

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.

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Preview

Get an early look from the first pages of The Lincoln Highway.

Member thoughts

All (7797)
All (7797)
Love (5027)
Like (2409)
Dislike (361)
7892 ratings
  • 64% Love
  • 31% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • Lexington, KY

    A great American novel. Beautiful. Poignant. Powerful. Loved the story, the writing, and how full each and every character’s story was. It’s long, but reads faster than you’d think - and so worth it…

  • Fairfax , VA

    The book flows so beautifully and it’s a fast read despite being a big book. there isn’t anything about the highway though! The story is about getting on that highway not being on it. Loved it still

  • Winter Springs, FL

    The last chapter filled me with such sadness as I could foresee how things would end for Duchess. Such beautiful writing that genuinely makes you care for each character. An epic adventure—an odyssey.

  • Maynard, MA

    Finally after a couple of duds a book I could really sink my teeth into. Amor Towles is a master storyteller. You could feel each character’s point of view.

  • Kansas City, MO

    I love how well the story flows although it’s written from multiple viewpoints. The characters are likeable and I love the storyline. Towles writing style provides vivid imagery which I really loved.

  • Manassas, VA

    Did not disappoint. Towles is a master storyteller; loved the switching between characters’ povs and how he makes you feel so deeply for each one. Beautiful, writing as art unlike most you read today

  • Fairfax, CA

    This is everything I love in a book! Youth on and life-changing adventure, totally endearing and well-developed characters. Creative story telling and lovely prose… one of the best books this year!

  • Pittsburgh, PA

    I loved this book. Having read Towles' other books, I couldn't wait to start this one, and I was not disappointed. I loved the characters, and could empathize with their pasts. Loved the adventures

  • BLY, OR

    This book won't keep you on the edge of your seat, but stick with it. Brilliant characterizations, masterful storytelling, and an unexpected ending will keep you in its grip. This is real literature

  • Simpsonville , SC

    What a great cast of characters in this amazing book!!! Emmett, his little brother Billy, Sally , Duchess and Woolly. Many adventures are had by these five!! Billy wants to travel the Lincoln Highw

  • Sachse, TX

    This book was so good! A coming of age story reminiscent of This Tender Land. You will love Emmett, Billy, Duchess, Woolly and everyone surrounding them. I was in awe of the storytelling in this book!

  • LeMars, IA

    Though it took a while to connect with the characters, I ended up loving this book. Eloquently written with enough action to keep the reader engaged. I hope that Emmett and Billy achieved their dream!

  • Falls Church, VA

    Another wonderful book by this author! This book was about amazing friendships and also friendships gone wrong. What a trip. I only wish I could have found out if they found their mother in the end.

  • Belfair, WA

    I’m becoming a huge fan of Towles. As usual, the main character has a penchant for kindness (even though he went to prison for a violent crime/accident). Towles restores faith in the good in others.

  • Bartow, FL

    Loved loved loved. I’m going to read everything by this author now. This book was magical and lyrical and absolutely beautiful, so much so that I forgave my ordinary pet peeve of no quotation marks.

  • Raynham, MA

    I loved every part of this book: the setting, the plot, the in depth character development, the historical elements, varied perspectives, & the ending. Definitely my favorite book of the year so far!

  • San Antonio, TX

    Towles does not disappoint! Well developed characters, well written - a little Huck Finn a little This Tender Land - boys on an adventure. Towles has a way of writing each book completely different.

  • Boston, MA

    I was so worried this beast of a book might bore me but I loved it. The characters vivid, plot exciting, and the emotion seeping - Amor built a world filled with heart that I didn’t want to leave.

  • Mc Kee, KY

    I loved TLH!! Emmett and Billy, Duchess and Wooly, Ulysses, and Sally were all likable characters and I became invested in all of their stories. Definitely a Great American Novel! Beautifully written!

  • Chanhassen, MN

    This is a delightful book. I see why it has received so many high ratings. My only quibbles were that some of the characters were stereotypes and why did the author choose not to include “””?

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