My Book World
This charming novel tells of the ten-day adventure of two brothers who head out from Kansas to California to build a new life, following the death of their father and one brother’s release from jail. Yet their plans are thwarted when two fellow inmates hide in the trunk of the warden’s car (and hop out when the warden isn’t looking). Well, from there the adventure heads east instead of west. Perhaps the most captivating character is Billy, the eight-year-old brother who is smarter than any other character in the book but also the most disarming. It is his idea to travel coast to coast from New York to California on the “historical” Lincoln Highway. And without revealing any spoilers, the two brothers do eventually get to do just that—even if that journey doesn’t begin until the very last sentence.
The Lincoln Highway is just as fascinating, though in different ways, as Towles’s previous book, A Gentleman in Moscow. Towles is a master at several things, all adding up to great writing. One, is characterization. Even characters with the smallest parts are developed so that readers know who they are. Second is structure. Towles’s intricate scaffolding keeps readers informed of where they are at all times in the novel’s unraveling, without making it too simple. By using multiple points of view, by way of a character per chapter, he, at times, overlaps the portrayal of certain scenes, from two different points of view—providing readers an interesting “truth.” By the way, the ten parts begin with Part Ten and work toward Part One. All POVs are written in the third person with the exception of one, Duchess’s, which may make him the main narrator though not the central character. And third, Towles’s dialog—represented by way of em dashes instead of quotation marks—harks back to the fiction of an earlier period. I’m not sure why Towles does it, perhaps to do just that, make the early 1950s seem farther back than they really are. Are we to expect Lincoln Highway II? It wouldn’t trouble me at all.
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