Book Review: A Cross Country Road Trip In The Wrong Direction

The Lincoln Highway is a novel written by Amor Towles. Towles is apparently one of these guys who lacks an appreciation for things like quotation marks during moments of dialogue. He also varies his narrative perspective between first and third person. In spite of these unconventional writing styles, the story manages to stay pretty engaging.
The tale starts off with a young man being returned home after spending over a year at a juvenile work farm after an involuntary manslaughter conviction. Emmett Watson has recently lost his father and is released early since he has a much younger brother to look after. Once Emmett is reunited with his brother Billy, he soon learns that two other inmates from the work farm had surreptitiously hitched a ride with the warden who provided him with a ride. Young Billy is trying to convince his older brother to head out to California to search for their mother who had abandoned them some years before. His two friends, Duchess and Woolly, want to head in the other direction to New York. When they take off in Emmett’s car with his travel money, Emmett has little choice but to follow them to retrieve the money and the car. He and Billy end up on the railways to try to catch up to the two fugitives. Of course, the trip is fraught with obstacles and danger because it would be sort of a boring story otherwise.

This turned out to be a pretty interesting novel. Duchess is a somewhat complicated and charming antagonist. Towles does add some interesting layers to the major characters, Even Pastor John, who is probably one of the more troublesome characters Emmett and Billy encounter, actually is more than just a typical homeless scoundrel. Towles does a decent job of drawing out the notion that the most despicable people do not really see themselves as most would recognize as evil or misguided. Billy appears to be something of a genius, but still has a charming naiveté indicative of his youth. Emmett is a conscientious young man and cares for his brother, but he makes some mistakes along the way that leaves his sibling more vulnerable than necessary.

Sometimes, events are repeated from varying perspectives which I found to sort of slow the pace of the story down a bit. I don’t know if this novel can be considered one of the greatest things ever written, but I think Time is really the better judge of something like that. Once I got past the style of prose, I did find myself getting drawn into the story. The ending has an interesting twist. I don’t know if Towles plans to write a sequel to this, but there seems an opportunity to do so, but I found that the loose ends were fine to to be left to the imagination as to what happens next to the Watson brothers.

Well, I think a return to 221 B Baker Street is about due with Revenge From the Grave by David Stuart Davies.

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