Jenna Bush Hager’s book club pick in October 2021: “The Lincoln Highway”


After reading Qian Julie Wang’s magnificent memoir “Beautiful Country” in September 2021, Jenna Bush Hager turns things around with a historical fiction novel for October.

This month, the Read With Jenna Book Club highlights Amor Towles’ third and most recent novel, “The Lincoln Highway.”

“Not only is this one of the most beautifully written books I have ever chosen, but it is a story of hope, friendship and camaraderie at a time when we need it so badly,” said Jenna said.

The novel tells the story of three 18-year-old boys: Emmett Watson, Woolly and Duchess, and Watson’s brother, Billy, eight, who travel from Nebraska to New York in the 1950s in search of adventure and fun. ‘a new start.

After Emmett has spent 15 months serving his sentence on a juvenile labor farm, he is dropped off at his home in Nebraska, where he reunites with his brother, Billy. He is shocked to discover that his two friends from the detention center, Woolly and Duchess, snuck into the trunk of the principal’s car. With big plans to get to New York, the three 18-year-olds and Billy embark on their fateful journey.

The whole story is told from the perspective of eight characters over 10 days.

“Towles brilliantly captures one’s inner reality with deep, poetic prose. All eight are incredible forces in literature,” said TODAY’s book expert.

For Towles, this novel was a completely different challenge from his two previous books, “Rules of Civility” and “A Gentleman in Moscow”.

One of the things I love to do when moving from novel to novel, from project to project, is to make a major shift in what the novel requires of me as a writer. .

“One of the things that I love to do as I move from novel to novel, from project to project, is to make a major shift in what the novel requires of me as a writer So my latest novel, ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ is about an older man, who is an aristocrat in Russia and has been stuck in a hotel for 30 years, ”Towles said. “When I decided to write a new book, ‘The Lincoln Highway’, part of the appeal of the story to me is that it is about three 18-year-old boys and one boy from eight, who are on their from Nebraska to New York in 1954, and the whole story only lasts 10 days. “

Towles says he’s always been interested in the 1950s because that’s the time his father came of age. Although his father is not depicted in the book, the character Emmett Watson shares an exact birthday with his father.

“In the end, I came back when the book was done and changed the main character’s birthday to December 12, 1935, because it’s my dad’s birthday,” Towles said.

As readers delve into Towles’ third novel, Jenna Bush Hager shares with TODAY that she looks forward to discussing the novel with the author.

“Amor Towles is one of those authors who I think will become a Steinbeck of our generation and you know it’s hard to say that about a lot of books, but I think ‘The Lincoln Highway’ will be a classic. which we will read in the years to come, ”says Jenna.

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