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The Lincoln Highway: A Novel



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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Lincoln Highway:

“[A] mischievous, wise and wildly entertaining novel . . . Towles goes all in on the kind of episodic, exuberant narrative haywire found in myth or Homeric epic . . . Each [character], Towles implies, is the central protagonist of an ongoing adventure that is both unique and universal . . . remarkably buoyant . . . permeated with light, wit, youth . . . Towles has snipped off a minuscule strand of existence—10 wayward days—and when we look through his lens we see that this brief interstice teems with stories, grand as legends.” —Chris Batcheldor, New York Times Book Review

“Not only is it one of the most beautifully written books I have ever picked up, it’s a story about hope, friendship and companionship in a time when we need it so much . . . Towles brilliantly captures the inner reality of each [character] with profound and poetic prose. All eight of them are incredible forces in literature . . . Amor Towles is one of those authors that I think will become a Steinbeck of our generation and […] I think The Lincoln Highway will be a classic that we will read for years to come.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Read With Jenna book club

“[A] real joyride . . . hitch onto this delightful tour de force and you’ll be pulled straight through to the end, helpless against the inventive exuberance of Towles’ storytelling . . . The Lincoln Highway is elegantly constructed and compulsively readable . . . action-packed . . . There’s so much to enjoy in this generous novel packed with fantastic characters […] and filled with digressions, magic tricks, sorry sagas, retributions, and the messy business of balancing accounts.” —NPR.org

“Gorgeously crafted . . . Towles binds the novel with compassion and scrupulous detail . . . Towles draws a line between the social maladies of then and now, connecting the yearnings of his characters with our own volatile era. He does it with stylish, sophisticated storytelling . . . The novel embraces the contradictions of our character with a skillful hand, guiding the reader forward with ‘a sensation of floating – like one who’s being carried down a wide river on a warm summer day.’” Washington Post

“The astonishingly versatile author of Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow returns with an American picaresque destined to become a classic . . . adventures and memorable characters abound. Using multiple points-of-view and shifting from comedy to tragedy and back again, Towles enthralls.” O Quarterly

“[A] captivating piece of historical fiction . . . transporting . . . a rollicking cross-country adventure, rife with unforgettable characters, vivid scenery and suspense that will keep readers flying through the pages.” TIME

“[The] notion of American openness, of ever-fractalizing free will, coming up against the fickle realities of fate is the tension that powers Towles’ exciting, entertaining […] picaresque . . . Stories can bring us back to ourselves, Towles seems to say, if only we are open to receiving their power . . . Anyone who follows The Lincoln Highway will relish the trip.” Los Angeles Times

[E]xhilarating . . . this multiperspective story offers an abundance of surprising detours and run-ins.” —Gregory Cowles, The New York Times Book Review

“Welcome to the enormous pleasure that is The Lincoln Highway, a big book of camaraderie and adventure in which the miles fly by and the pages turn fast.  Set over the course of ten riveting days, the story of these four boys unfolds, refolds, tears, and is taped back together.  When you aren’t actually reading the book, you’ll be worrying about the characters, so you might as well stay in your chair and keep reading.” —Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

“Captivating . . . The Lincoln Highway has suspense, humor, philosophy, and a strong sense of time and place, moving quickly and surely toward a satisfying conclusion . . . Like the intercontinental route that it is named for, The Lincoln Highway is long and filled with intriguing detours. In the hands of a master wordsmith like Towles, it is definitely worth the trip.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“An enthralling odyssey.” People

USA Today

“[A] reason to rejoice.”
The Millions 

“A wild ride through Americana.”

“An absolute beauty of a book. Every character is a gem, the many locations spring to vivid life, the book is an intricate and moving exploration of journeys and the infinite unexpected turns they can take—and somehow Towles makes it all seem effortless. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again.”
—Tana French, bestselling author of The Searcher

“[A] bracing, heroic adventure . . . Towles plays stylishly with elements of the picaresque, the coming-of-age novel and the epic quest . . . The indelible final scene, which I did not see coming, perfectly encapsulates the theme of inheritance, and what choices the characters make about what they are given, to determine their own fates.” Seattle Times

“[The Lincoln Highway] loses none of the author’s trademark wit or style . . . a cross-country adventure packed with unexpected twists and unforgettable action.” Town & Country

The Lincoln Highway is a road novel that celebrates the mythos of an era via a cross-country highway . . . Readers […] will delight in this travelogue’s touchstones.” Star-Tribune

“History [and] adventure collide in The Lincoln Highway . . . The pace is fast and writing concise, making it a digestible read whether in bed or at a loud coffee shop.” Associated Press

“Magnificent . . . Towles is a supreme storyteller, and this one-of-a-kind kind of novel isn’t to be missed.” Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Towles’ third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow . . .A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, [The Lincoln Highway] is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history. An exhilarating ride through Americana.”Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Packed with drama . . . Towles’ fans will be rewarded with many of the same pleasures they’ve come to expect from him: a multitude of stories told at a leisurely pace (the novel clocks in at 592 pages); numerous endearing and sometimes maddening characters; and pitch-perfect plotting with surprises at every turn . . . Towles has created another winning novel whose pages are destined to be turned—and occasionally tattered—by gratified readers.” BookPage (starred)

“[A] playfully thought-provoking novel . . . [Towles] 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.” Booklist (starred)

“[The Lincoln Highway] is reason to rejoice for Towles’s millions of fans, who made his first two novels, Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, runaway international bestsellers.” The Millions

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of October 2021:The Lincoln Highway might just be one of the best novels of this decade, which is a feat considering A Gentleman in Moscow, also holds that distinction (in this reviewer’s mind, anyway). Set in the 1950s, The Lincoln Highway is filled with nostalgia as well as the gentle naïveté and hijinks of those who are young, optimistic, and on a mission. The story follows four boys who set out to travel the country in search of a fresh start: Emmett and Billy want to find their mother who left them when they were young, and Duchess and Woolly are on the hunt for a stashed wad of cash. Sometimes their dreams are aligned but often they are not. In other words, adventure ensues: There’s train hopping and car stealing, and with that comes the inevitability of trouble sparked from both good and bad intentions. Each of these young men is chasing his dreams, but their pasts—whether violent or sad—are never far behind. A remarkable work of storytelling that is a 2021 favorite. —Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From the Publisher

Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Pick for the Best Book of 2021

New York Times Book Review says, A wise and wildly entertaining novel.

Jenna Bush Hager says, one of the most beautifully written books I have ever picked up... a classic.

Additional information




Viking October 5 2021

Publication date

October 5 2021



File size

4126 KB



Screen Reader


Enhanced typesetting




Word Wise


Print length

588 pages


Not Enabled

10 reviews for The Lincoln Highway: A Novel

  1. kathleen g

    yes it meanders but……A long and winding road. It’s 1954 and newly released from a work camp, Emmet wants nothing more than to pack up his little brother Billy and head to Texas where he plans to use his carpentry skills to renovate houses. Billy, however, wants to go to California where he believes their mother, who left the family, is living. Both of their plans are knocked sideways by the surprise appearance of Willy and Duchess, who escaped the camp in the trunk of the car that brought Emmet home. Duchess has hatched a plan to go to New York and take $150k from the safe in Wooly’s family home= and he’s steals Emmet’s car, forcing Emmet and Billy onto a freight train where they meet Ulysses, who has been riding the rails since his own family disappeared during WWII. Duchess also wants to wreak revenge on or atone to several people and to find the father who abandoned and betrayed him. This is a story of seekers, of fathers and sons, of heroic tales, of the hidden places, of mental illness, and of hope. These are vivid characters, even if they might seem archetypes- it works. While the novel is set over a ten day period (it counts down from the day Emmet gets home and then documents each day in the journey to and around New York), each character’s back story is parceled out along the way. I found myself wrapped up in this well told story thanks to Towles’ storytelling and, frankly, a desire to know what would happen. And I was surprised. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Excellent read.

  2. Compulsive Reader

    Polished prose provokes lethargyTry as I might, I failed to generate a spark of interest in any of the characters or their aimless wanderings. A Gentleman in Moscow, though set almost entirely in one building, had a great deal more action and interest.

  3. M. G. Ball

    After GENTLEMAN FROM MOSCOW, what a disappointment…The principles are teenage boys in the early 1950s–except for an eight-year-old little brother. The narrator ricochets from one of the characters to another, their thoughts (except, maybe, for Emmett’s) far too mature and introspective considering the ages involved. Moreover, the little brother is beyond precocious. The plot meanders, soon becomes tedious, then devolves into the absurd. I gave up…

  4. Amazon Customer

    This is a huge let down after author’s first two booksI thought his two first books were brilliant. This one is horrible. Uninteresting characters, no action, strange punctuation. Really hard to read.

  5. KasaC

    Wish i’d liked it moreI know there were a lot of people who loved this, but after such anticipation, I was disappointed. To me it lacked the magic of Towles’s earlier two books, in particular, A Gentleman In Moscow, but then that book set such a high bar. Here, instead of having his central character virtually under house arrest and retaining the narrative to a single setting in “Moscow,” Towles hits the open road in 1954 with four characters that made me think of Of Mice & Men by way of Huck Finn. I did like some of the atmospheric choices, such as the Highline decades before it became known as such and was still part of the railway spur that serviced the meatpacking district. But there were too many instances of deus ex machina, too many inconceivable occurrences, I could not suspend belief. I did finish since I was intrigued enough to learn what happens to these people, but was ultimately unsatisfied.

  6. S. Corman

    This book is a winner!Once again, Amor Towles has managed to populate his novel with a cast of endearing and quirky characters that tug at your heart strings. “The Lincoln Highway”, is a marvelous story that is at once an adventure novel while being a tale of hopes and dreams fulfilled or dashed.At the heart of the story are 2 young brothers, one a teenager and one a child of 8, who are about to set out to find their mother after the death of their father. The people they encounter, the ones who join their travels, are such interesting and unique characters, with big hearts and dreams all their own, that we become privy to.Amor Towles’ writing is pure poetry. It lets you ride along with him on the wildest of adventures that leaves you breathless and satisfied. This book is a winner.!.

  7. Reader

    It’s difficult to say why I disliked this book so much, as I greatly enjoyed A Gentleman of Moscow and The Rukes of CivilityMr. Towles is a brilliant writer and certainly proves it, again, with The Lincoln Highway. However, I found it to be more an exercise in literary extravagance and elaborate story telling, but far less in meaning and message.Characters appeared and disappeared rather randomly, as did the story-lines, with ambiguous conclusions ( or none at all).I know this book has been extremely well received and critically acclaimed, but my advice is to not waste your time on it!

  8. George Fulmer

    Boring with a capital Bso many wasted extraneous words, on and on with repetitive stories, endlessly boring book

  9. millhall

    A multi faceted road journey.I am a fan of this author. I freely admit that some readers found his earlier books to be trivial and frivolous. I found them to be a delight. Towles is like no other author I know. It takes some time to become hooked by his stories, but the reward is refreshing writing that is unique. The present novel is the story of two brothers who plan to set off from their failed family farm in Nebraska and start a new life in California. Their Plans are thwarted by the appearance of two friends who cause a major disruption which leads to multiple detours on the journey. The story is far fetched and almost ludicrous, but the characters who are portrayed come alive and I did not wish the book to end. In no sense is this book a thriller and yet tension does exist as the end approaches. Th final element of the conclusion has an element of theft from the ending of “The Italian Job” but I think that can be forgiven. Despite an almost total lack of sex, violence and foul language the book moves along at a compelling pace. There is a smattering of philosophy, a touch of Greek mythology and Shakespeare is not forgotten. Much to admire and enjoy.

  10. A.Sturgess

    Wanders off the highwayInteresting at first then the characters and story start to wander all over the place – and I don’t just mean as they develop their journey. Emmett and Billy come alive in the first chapters but then seem to fall away and become far less believable. VERY disappointing.

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