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Arts & Culture
KPCW invites members of the Friends of the Park City and Summit County libraries to review novels and non-fiction every month.

February Book Review --"The Lincoln Highway"

the lincoln highway.jpg
Penguin Random House
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Amor Towles’ third novel, The Lincoln Highway, has followed his first two, Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow straight to the New York Times Bestseller list.

As an FYI to everyone listening, the Lincoln Highway is one of the earliest transcontinental highway routes for automobiles across the United States of America. Dedicated October 31, 1913, it ran coast-to-coast through 13 states from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

I love a layered, intriguing story and author Amor Towles creates exactly that. He populates it with characters you simply will never forget.

I’m warning you ahead of time, pay attention to all the details along the way. They are more than a road map. Readers will find clues, analogies, and symbolism throughout. Precocious, 8-year-old Billy picks up on insights a reader might pass right over.

This story is about stories; the tellers and writers of stories and the heroic characters both classical and everyday who inspire them and live them.

Along with young Billy, I learned the Latin term ‘ in medius res’ and how some stories begin in the midst of things or in the middle. And as Billy observes, it is impossible to begin telling your own story until you know exactly where the middle is.

Towles begins this tale with chapter 10, in the midst of things on June 12, 1954. Billy’s older brother Emmett has been released early from a juvenile detention facility because their father, a single parent, has passed away. Emmett returns home to make a plan for their future.

Billy has learned a multitude of lessons in his short life, many of them from his favorite book entitled ‘Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers and Other Intrepid Travelers’. He realizes both the heroes of Greek mythology and the everyday heroes who surround him, often have tragic flaws that serve to be their undoing.

Readers are literally, along for the ride, first in Emmett’s 1948 baby blue, Studebaker Land Cruiser pointed in the direction of California, then in a dark and dusty boxcar rumbling toward New York City.

The ‘escapade’ as Billy eventually calls it, takes place over the course of only ten days. It is told through the point of view of eight characters; five of whom depart the story on the wings of hope. The other three definitely fall victim to their tragic flaws.

The Lincoln Highway can be found in our local libraries. For KPCW this is Barb Bretz with your monthly book review.