Book review: Lillian Boxfish takes a walk by Kathleen Rooney

  • Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
  • Date released:  January 17, 2017
  • Pages:  304
  • Genre:  Literary fiction / Women’s fiction

SYNOPSIS:

“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now—her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl—but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed—and has not.

A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.

“Extraordinary…Hilarious…Elegantly written, Rooney creates a glorious paean to a distant literary life and time—and an unabashed celebration of human connections that bridge past and future.
Publishers Weekly

BUY THE BOOK:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble   MacMillan

Meet the author:  Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. She has been recognized as one of Newcity Lit’s “Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2016.” Her previous work includes poetry as well as both fiction and nonfiction, and has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Allure, Salon, The Rumpus, and the Chicago Tribune. She works as a senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing at DePaul University where she teaches, among other things, a workshop on The Writer as Urban Walker. Kathleen is married to the novelist Martin Seay.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   Twitter   goodreads   tumbler

MY REVIEW:

Eighty-five year old Lillian is going for a walk on New Year’s eve.  A very long walk.  Never the wilting violet, her walk takes her through dangerous neighbourhoods as well as old haunts. As she passes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, old memories surface as she relives her life beginning as a young career woman who rose to fame writing ads for Macy’s Department Store in the 1930s.  Her widely publicized creed that a woman doesn’t need romance or love in her life backfires when she falls completely and insanely in love with Max.  With the birth of her child, her lifestyle and aspirations change abruptly, causing her to lose her lose her sense of self.

Although this book is a work of fiction, the author’s inspiration came from the real life character of Margaret Fishback, a poet and the real highest-paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s.

The author, herself a poet, delivers a delightfully witty and touching story of a woman who has it all, loses it all and then comes to terms with who she has become. I smiled often at Lillian’s witticisms and feisty repartee and will buy the hardbound book just so that I can re-read this wonderful story again.

 

 

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