After being escorted home by the warden of Salina, the juvenile detention center where he has just served, Emmett arrived with a fairly clear plan for starting anew, for himself and his younger brother, Billy, Since the premature death of their father, the only parent who’d been around for the past number of years, it was now up to Emmett to see to Billy’s care and he planned to take that responsibility very seriously. He did not, however, anticipate that 9-year-old Billy would have an equally precise idea about what their future plan should entail. Nor did he anticipate the complicated route on which they would find themselves traveling.
There are many reasons that I am not an author, but Amor Towles is one of them. Many authors intimidate me, with their uncanny ability to weave together intricate plot lines, such that they push the borders of one’s imagination. Others are able to conjure sentences that are like pearls on a string, poetry within prose, at which I can only marvel. Towles is able to accomplish both, which is the gift he shared with us in A Gentleman in Moscow, and again shares with us here.
And the characters are as multi-dimensional as the people we know in our lives. Duchess, one of Emmett’s associates from Salina, is a profound and complex character, and this novel is every bit about his journey as it is Emmett’s. Duchess who is the consummate showman, is always polite and upbeat and outwardly generous, is inwardly broken. We know not to trust him but we like him in spite of ourselves; we know he has a heart, but that heart has been fractured over and over and over. He too is on a mission, and his is understandable but misguided.
I love that Billy — the youngest, most idealistic, and the one guided by a book of heroes — is also the character in the story with the most common sense. Billy is the one who sees through all the nonsense that the others struggle with. While everyone else sees themselves as his protectors, Billy is actually the one who remains calm, keeps the most level head, and pays attention to the details that matter most. We can all learn from Billy.
The writing, the characters, the journey – give this gift to yourself. And be glad that Amor Towles is the author, and not me!
A definite MUST-READ!