What an engaging little book with a big story! On New Year's Eve in 1984, eighty-four-year-old Lillian decides to take a walk within the Manhattan haunts of her past career as the highest paid female advertising writer in the USA in the 1930's and 40's. Her memories flood back as she walks and her life as a mother, a wife and a poet is told. Lillian is acerbic, brilliant and heartfelt in her journey. A lovely book.— Barb
“Join 85-year-old Lillian on a New Year's Eve stroll through Manhattan, a city as changed by time as Lillian herself. As with Joyce's Ulysses, the reader is privy to a life told in snapshots of memory within a single day. Based loosely on the life of Margaret Fishback, Lillian is a former Depression-era advertising copywriter for R.H. Macy's and a poet of light verse. She is also a mother and an ex-wife. Rooney's work has a light touch, but she is never frivolous. Rooney has the capacity to portray depth within brevity, pain within humor. Here is a novel that both entertains and enlightens, a balance rarely achieved.”
— Sarah Sorensen (E), Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI
Fall 2016 Library Journal Editors' Pick
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.