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The Lincoln Highway
Cover of The Lincoln Highway
The Lincoln Highway
A Novel
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

More than ONE MILLION copies sold

A TODAY Show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick


A New York Times Notable Book, and Chosen by Oprah Daily, Time, NPR, The Washington Post and Barack Obama as a Best Book of the Year

“Wise and wildly entertaining . . . permeated with light, wit, youth.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“A classic that we will read for years to come.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Read with Jenna book club
 
“A real joyride . . . elegantly constructed and compulsively readable.” – NPR

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America


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.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

More than ONE MILLION copies sold

A TODAY Show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick


A New York Times Notable Book, and Chosen by Oprah Daily, Time, NPR, The Washington Post and Barack Obama as a Best Book of the Year

“Wise and wildly entertaining . . . permeated with light, wit, youth.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“A classic that we will read for years to come.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Read with Jenna book club
 
“A real joyride . . . elegantly constructed and compulsively readable.” – NPR

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America


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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Excerpts-
  • From the cover Emmett
     
    June 12, 1954—The drive from Salina to Morgen was three hours, and for much of it, Emmett hadn’t said a word. For the first sixty miles or so, Warden Williams had made an effort at friendly conversation. He had told a few stories about his childhood back East and asked a few questions about Emmett’s on the farm. But this was the last they’d be together, and Emmett didn’t see much sense in going into all of that now. So when they crossed the border from Kansas into Nebraska and the warden turned on the radio, Emmett stared out the window at the prairie, keeping his thoughts to himself.

    When they were five miles south of town, Emmett pointed through the windshield.

    —You take that next right. It’ll be the white house about four miles down the road.

    The warden slowed his car and took the turn. They drove past the McKusker place, then the Andersens’ with its matching pair of large red barns. A few minutes later they could see Emmett’s house standing beside a small grove of oak trees about thirty yards from the road. To Emmett, all the houses in this part of the country looked like they’d been dropped from the sky. The Watson house just looked like it’d had a rougher landing. The roof line sagged on either side of the chimney and the window frames were slanted just enough that half the windows wouldn’t quite open and the other half wouldn’t quite shut. In another moment, they’d be able to see how the paint had been shaken right off the clapboard. But when they got within a hundred feet of the driveway, the warden pulled to the side of the road.

    —Emmett, he said, with his hands on the wheel, before we drive in there’s something I’d like to say.

    That Warden Williams had something to say didn’t come as much of a surprise. When Emmett had first arrived at Salina, the warden was a Hoosier named Ackerly, who wasn’t inclined to put into words a piece of advice that could be delivered more efficiently with a stick. But Warden Williams was a modern man with a master’s degree and good intentions and a framed photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt hanging behind his desk. He had notions that he’d gathered from books and experience, and he had plenty of words at his disposal to turn them into counsel.

    —For some of the young men who come to Salina, he began, whatever series of events has brought them under our sphere of influence is just the beginning of a long journey through a life of trouble. They’re boys who were never given much sense of right or wrong as children and who see little reason for learning it now. Whatever values or ambitions we try to instill in them will, in all likelihood, be cast aside the moment they walk out from under our gaze. Sadly, for these boys it is only a matter of time before they find themselves in the correctional facility at Topeka, or worse.

    The warden turned to Emmett.

    —What I’m getting at, Emmett, is that you are not one of them. We haven’t known each other long, but from my time with you I can tell that that boy’s death weighs heavily on your conscience. No one imagines what happened that night reflects either the spirit of malice or an expression of your character. It was the ugly side of chance. But as a civilized society, we ask that even those who have had an unintended hand in the misfortune of others pay some retribution. Of course, the payment of the retribution is in part to satisfy those who’ve suffered the brunt of the misfortune—like this boy’s family. But we also require that it be paid...
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2021

    In June 1954, when 18-year-old Emmett Watson is dropped back home by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, he expects simply to grab his little brother and skedaddle to California. His mother is long gone, his father recently dead, and the farm foreclosed. Then he spots two friends from the farm who surreptitiously hitched a ride on the warden's truck and plan to steer him toward New York instead. Clearly, the author of the New York Times best sellers Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow aims never to write the same book twice.

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2021
    Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm. They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD-like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York-bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history. An exhilarating ride through Americana.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 16, 2021
    Towles’s magnificent comic road novel (after A Gentleman in Moscow) follows the rowdy escapades of four boys in the 1950s and doubles as an old-fashioned narrative about farms, families, and accidental friendships. In June 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson returns to his childhood farm in Morgen, Neb., from a juvenile detention camp. Emmett has been released early from his sentencing for fighting because his father has died and his homestead has been foreclosed. His precocious eight-year-old brother, Billy, greets him, anxious to light out for San Francisco in hopes of finding their mother, who abandoned them. Plans immediately go awry when two escaped inmates from Emmett’s camp, Duchess and Woolly, appear in the Watsons’ barn. Woolly says his grandfather has stashed $150,000 in the family’s Adirondack Mountains cabin, which he offers to split evenly between the three older boys. But Duchess and Woolly take off with Emmett’s Studebaker, leaving the brothers in pursuit as boxcar boys. On the long and winding railway journey, the brothers encounter characters like the scabrous Pastor John and an endearing WWII vet named Ulysses, and Billy’s constant companion, a book titled Professor Abacus Abernathe’s Compendium of Heroes, Adventures, and Other Intrepid Travelers, provides parallel story lines of epic events and heroic adventures. Woolly has a mind for stories, too, comparing his monotonous time in detention to that of Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo and hoping eventually to experience a “one-of-a-kind kind of day.” Towles is a supreme storyteller, and this one-of-a-kind kind of novel isn’t to be missed. (Oct.)Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the name of the Ulysses character.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2021
    Massive but light on its feet, this playfully thought-provoking novel from Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow, 2016) follows a young man newly released from a juvenile work camp through 10 eventful days in 1954. Convicted of accidentally killing a classmate who was taunting him, 18-year-old Emmett Watson has been released a few months early because of his father's death, and is transported home to Nebraska by the camp's warden, who unknowingly brings along two work-camp stowaways in the trunk of his car. Just as Emmett is about to head west along the transcontinental Lincoln Highway with his solemn eight-year-old brother, Billy, stowaways Duchess and Woolly take off toward New York with Emmett's prized baby-blue Studebaker, in which Emmett has hidden all the money he has in the world. Emmett and Billy hop a boxcar in pursuit, in a convoluted chase that involves a vagabond named Ulysses, Emmett's neighbor Sally, a circus, the author of Billy's favorite book, and an Adirondack hunting lodge. Towles, paying more than a passing nod to Huckleberry Finn, juggles the pieces of his plot deftly, shifting from voice to voice, skirting sentimentality and quirkiness with a touch of wistful regret, and leading up to an ending that is bound to provoke discussion. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The millions of readers Towles reached with the mega-selling A Gentleman in Moscow will be thrilled to see something new from the author.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Lincoln Highway
A Novel
Amor Towles
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