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