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The Lincoln Highway

By Amor Towles

A Perfect Blend of Characters, Setting, and Story



June 1954. Eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson has just finished serving his time at a juvenile work farm in Salina, Kansas, for involuntary manslaughter. He is ready to put the past behind him and is anxious to get away from the town that believes he got off too easy. Emmett’s mother had left the family many years ago, and his father just recently passed away. The bank has foreclosed on the family farm, and Emmett must care for Billy, his eight-year-old brother. They are going to head west in Emmett’s 1948 blue Studebaker. Emmett and Billy both want to go west. Billy wants to find his mother in San Francisco, California. Emmett would rather go to Texas to build a house and start their lives anew.

Before getting on the road, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm had hitched a ride with the warden, who brought Emmett home. These two, Wooley and Duchess, have hatched a different plan for Emmett and Billy’s travels. The next ten days have these four cover thousands of miles in a journey of friendship, adventure, mishaps, and misdirection.

“Everything of value in this life must be earned. That it should be earned. Because those who are given something of value without having to earn it are bound to squander it. I believe that one should earn respect. One should earn trust. One should earn the love of a woman, and the right to call oneself a man.”
“There are surely a lot of big things in America. The Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are big. The Mississippi River and the Grand Canyon are big. The skies over the prairie are big. But there is nothing bigger than a man’s opinion of himself.”


THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY is the perfect synchronicity of characters, setting, and story. It’s an atmospheric and multi-layered adventure novel set in the 1950s and told from the perspectives of Emmett, Wooley, and Duchess. The journey is bumpy, but what a ride for these stalwart travelers.

The characters are delightfully diverse, and author Amor Towles excels at bringing each of these four musketeers to life. You will feel sorry for Emmett and the burden her carries, but you will also fall head over heels in love with his precious and smart beyond his years, little brother. Then there is the genial and gentle Wooley, who comes from old money, and Duchess, whose father dropped him off at an orphanage when he was only eight years old. We also meet many other characters that take this poignant story over the top.

Towles is masterful in everything he writes, from Rules of Civility to A Gentleman in Moscow and now The Lincoln Highway. The writing is distinct and captivating. It will make you laugh, cry, and feel like you have read something worth reading. If you have read Towles's other books, this is a must-read.

I listened to the audiobook and found the performance entertaining. The distinction between the voices was subtle. The narrators were Edoardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland, and Dion Graham.

“Wouldn’t it have been wonderful, if everybody’s life was like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Then no one person’s life would ever be an inconvenience to anyone else’s. It would just fit snugly in its very own, specially designed spot, and in so doing, would enable the whole intricate picture to become complete.”

Publisher Viking/Penguin Audio

Published October 5, 2021

Narrated Edoardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland, and Dion Graham


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