The Lincoln Highway

Books on Tape. Oct. 2021. 16:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593452097. $50. F
Towles’s (A Gentleman in Moscow) third rollicking historical novel begins on a very somber note: the year is 1954, and 18-year-old Nebraska farm boy Emmett Watson is being driven home by the warden of the reform school where he served time for accidently killing a boy who was bullying him. (The accident was “the ugly side of chance,” the warden tells Emmett.) Having received an early release after his father died and the bank foreclosed on the family farm, Emmett, who trained as a carpenter before the accident, plans on leaving town ASAP and moving to a growing city where he can flip houses to support himself and his absolutely charming, precocious eight-year-old brother Billy. Emmett’s well-laid plans go completely awry as Duchess and Woolly, two fellow students from the reform school, emerge from their hiding place in the warden’s trunk. This sets the four boys off on a 10-day adventure worthy of inclusion in Billy’s favorite book, Professor Abacus Abernathe’s Compendium of Heroes, Adventures, and Other Intrepid Travelers. Joining the four adventurers on their cross-country coming-of-age journey are Sally, the plucky young neighbor of the Watsons (wonderfully voiced by Marin Ireland), and Ulysses, a homeless war veteran (voiced by the always amazing Dion Graham). Edoardo Ballerini masterfully portrays the four very different boys, smoothly juggling the shifting points of view.
VERDICT Towles’s entertaining and moving character-driven narrative explores the lovely, ugly, and heartbreaking sides of chance.
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