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The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles was just what I needed to get out of my book slump. The last few books I have read have been sub-par and I've been having a hard time finding something that really pulls me in. That is, until I picked up this beauty. The Lincoln Highway was also my first foray into Amor Towles. After finishing, it will not be my last.


Set in 1950's America, Emmett Watson has just been released from a reform school where he served a one year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. He returns home to his kid brother, Billy, and their family farm in Nebraska, where their father has recently passed away and their mother up and left year's prior. Emmett wants to leave town and start somewhere fresh. Billy suggests taking the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco, where he believes their mother is living. Their journey begins unexpectedly and leads them along many paths they did not anticipate. Spanning a mere ten days, Emmett and Billy get into their share of trouble and adventure.

Mel's Thoughts:

I adored this historical fiction coming-of-age novel with a rag-tag group of boys. It reminded me so much of William Kent Krueger's This Tender Land, which is an all time favorite of mine. There are quite a few similarities, such as the main characters being a group of misfit teenage boys who spend time at a reform school and the coming-of-age type journey plotline. I became invested in Emmett, Billy, Duchess & Woolly's stories and found myself wondering what they were up to when I was daydreaming about the end of work day when I could pick this book back up.

The Lincoln Highway is told from multiple character perspectives, which kept the pace of the book moving, even for it's robust 575 pages. Each character brought their own personality to the story and I loved getting inside each of their heads. I have seen reviews state this book could have been at least 100 pages shorter. I somewhat agree with that, just because any book over 500 pages seems so long to me, but I honestly did not have a problem with the length. It was one of those novels where you get lost in it, only to set it down and anticipate getting back to it the following day. I did not mind taking my time with this story and loved the day-dreamy and adventure aspect of it.

The ending though. I'm still torn on my thoughts! On one hand, it ended perfectly and with a poetic justice to it that can only be done by a literary genius like Amor Towles. On the other hand, UGH, I'm still upset! If you have read The Lincoln Highway, let's discuss, because I need a deep dive therapy session on my feelings with this one.


4.5 stars

Favorite Quotes:

"For kindness begins where necessity ends."

“The funny thing about a picture, thought Woolly, the funny thing about a picture is that while it knows everything that’s happened up until the moment it’s been taken, it knows absotively nothing about what will happen next. And yet, once the picture has been framed and hung on a wall, what you see when you look at it closely are all the things that were about to happen. All the un-things. The things that were unanticipated. And unintended. And unreversible.”

“—It wasn’t a bother at all, the old gent replied, gesturing toward his bed. I was only reading. Ah, I thought, seeing the corner of the book poking out from the folds of his sheets. I should have known. The poor old chap, he suffers from the most dangerous addiction of all.”

Read if you liked:

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (click the title link to read my review)

Other books by this author:

A Gentleman in Moscow

Rules of Civility

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