Six years ago I read Amor Towles classic book “A Gentleman in Moscow.” I was mesmerized by it, I thought it was the best book I had read in over two decades and would have given it a higher rating than five stars had it been possible. I thought his other book, “The Rules of Civility”, was not quite as good but still a very fine effort. So I was very excited to sit down and read his newest book “The Lincoln Highway”. I was extremely disappointed and left down by this book..
It is a well written book, but it has a very convoluted and bizarre story. It is a road trip, a buddy story, and includes some unbelievable plot twists. The story is about Emmett Watson, young man who just was released from a juvenile facility. When he goes home he finds his father’s farm in Nebraska has been foreclosed, his father has died, and his young brother Billy living with a neighbor. Much to his surprise a little later on he discovers that two others from the juvenile facility had escaped in the trunk of the car that took Emmett back to his home, and with that we now have Wooly and Dutchess basically taking over all the action and decisions of this book. You see Emmett’s mother left in the 1940s but sent postcards on her trip to San Francisco via the Lincoln Highway. She had had enough of the farm life and wanted to escape. After that things went downhill for Emmett and we join him in 1952, the year in which this entire story takes place. His younger brother Billy wants to retrace their mother’s route to San Francisco on the Lincoln highway, but despite the desires of the Watson brothers, Wooly and Dutchess basically take over this story and the Watson’s are merely side characters in my opinion.
it took me almost seven months to read this book, as I had gap of almost six months before I felt I should pick it up and try to finish it. And the book got better near the end of the story, but nonetheless was an overall disappointment to me. Dutchess was out for revenge, Wooly had a definite mental issue and was trying to get to his grandfather’s estate in upstate New York to claim his inheritance, and all the while the Watson’s just either tag along or were left behind. That’s right Dutchess and Wooly stole their car and so Emmett and Billy had to ride the rails to New York City where they remarkably were able to find Dutchess, and after that they were able to get to upstate New York after Dutchess had once again stolen the car.
the end of the book is very tragic, but we finally see Emmett, Billy, and their friend Sally, from back in Nebraska, making their way to New York City where the Lincoln highway begins, so they can try to get to San Francisco by the 4th of July and attempt to find their mother. It is an interesting series of events but just highly implausible. It is well written but it is a slow read in my opinion. the book has 10 chapters and in each chapters there are multiple narrators, each one of the characters, as well as some side characters, and when the author keeps these segments short and sweet the plot moves along. Unfortunately many times these are long segments which just sidetrack the book and make it a difficult read for me. I do believe that Amor Towles is a wonderful writer, but this book is certainly not his best effort. Maybe things may turn out right by the end, but the road to the Lincoln highway is convoluted and filled with unnecessary side trips.