Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Summary: 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. -- St. Martin's Press

I picked up LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK by Kathleen Rooney after seeing a tweet from a famous author (maybe Jennifer Weiner?) recommending the book. If I remember correctly, she compared the main character to her grandmother; and she seemed to love the novel.

LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK tells the story of Lillian, and 85 year old woman who is on the way to her party on New Year's Eve 1984. As Lillian takes walks over ten miles around Manhattan, she visits many historic landmarks and meets some interesting people; and along the way, she reminisces about her past and the current state of the world

That is a very simplistic description of the novel, but it really is such an interesting premise. Lillian, an elderly woman, spends the last day of the year on a walking tour of sorts through the streets of New York City. (Keep in mind that 1980s New York City is very different than today's New York City -- this was at the age of the subway vigilante.) Lillian probably should be afraid, but she's a spunky old lady and figures no one will mess with her. As Lillian stops at famous New York bars, restaurants and other landmarks, she engages with some intriguing characters; but she also remembers back over the past 85 years... both fondly and with some sadness.

Lillian is based on the real-life Margaret Fishback, the highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s. Margaret (and Lillian) worked for R. H. Macy's and was also a successful author and poet. The author first learned about Fishback in 2007 from a friend, and she felt an affinity with her. She worked on Fishback's writings and wanted to bring her story to life. What resulted was this book - a fictional account through the character Lillian Boxfish!

If I'm being entirely honest with you, it took me a little while to get into this novel. I have mentioned earlier that I'm finding it hard to read at the pace I would like ever since I started working, but I couldn't really get into Lillian or her stories. However, I stuck with the novel and I could tell that the book was resonating with me more and more. By the end, I was charmed by Lillian and her life story... and I loved that this book was a tribute to a strong woman as well as a great city!

LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK is a lovely novel. Lillian is a fantastic character, as are so many of the people she encounters on her walk; and the author did a wonderful job in bringing both her and the city to life! Furthermore, the book was both quirky and funny while also being smart and insightful. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it to fans of literary fiction!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Kim@Time2Read said...

I'm not sure I'd enjoy this one. It seems a little slow-paced. But Lillian DOES remind me of my Grandma. She didn't ever live in NYC, but she WAS spunky. She was mugged once a some teen stole her purse. She took off after him, and lucky for the teenage mugger, he could run faster than she could in her 80s!

bermudaonion said...

I'd probably enjoy this for its tribute to New York.