It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.
As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.
A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—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.
My take: 5 looks
My first finished book of 2017 was a winner! I was dazzled and intrigued by the title, and the fact that Lillian is an octogenarian, taking a walk through Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, made it that much more compelling. Rooney’s writing is fluid and strong, witty and poignant. I very much wanted to meet Lillian at the beginning of the book, and I felt as if I had met her when I finished the last page. Lillian’s personality, retorts, perfect timing, and sense of style came together to paint quite a character.
Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering that Lillian Boxfish was patterned after a real person! Margaret Fishback Antolini (March 10, 1900 – September 25, 1985) was a published writer of prose and poetry, worked for Macy’s in the advertising department, was reportedly the highest-paid female ad copywriter during the 1930s, and married the chief rug buyer from Macy’s, which whom she had one son.
Because of the strong writing and compelling characterization of this fictionalized night in the life of a real person, I am looking forward to reading Fishback’s books, and finding out more about this intriguing woman. A book that springboards to additional reading and research is the best kind of book!
Many thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.