The Lincoln Highway
“How easily we forget – we in the business of storytelling – that life was the point all along.” So says an older gentleman in this book, a professor, as he sets out on an unplanned adventure. Though he is a minor character, his quote is key.
After spending much of this book wondering what the point of it actually is, I suspect it’s that. Life. The process. The journey.
The year is 1954. Two brothers leave their foreclosed-upon farm in Nebraska heading for California, where 18-year-old Emmet plans to buy, renovate, and resell houses for the state’s rapidly growing population, while his 8-year-old brother Billy hopes to find their mother, who ran off when he was an infant.
Things immediately grow complicated when two other 18-year-olds, escapees from the juvenile detention facility from which Emmet has just been released, stow away. Suddenly the brothers are headed east to New York, thanks to the whim of one of the stowaways and Emmet’s good heart. What follows is one complication to their progress after another.
I adored this author’s previous book, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. It, too, was about living and adapting and following dreams, though set in a hotel in Russia, where the protagonist was being held under house arrest. In that book, every character had a purpose. Here, I’m not sure.
The side characters in THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY are delightful. Necessary? I don’t know. In hindsight, I see that the three I have in mind were all searching for a meaningful life, as well. During the reading, I was never quite sure. I’m still not sure about the relevance of the title. Anyone out there know?
So no, I didn’t entirely get THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY. But how not to give a book as elegantly written, as intricately researched, as peopled with rich, well-defined characters and as perfect in capturing a slice of America in the 1950s as a book can get, five stars?