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Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (2017)

by Kathleen Rooney

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0638116,820 (3.93)184
"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"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir by Vivian Gornick (pbirch01)
    pbirch01: Both primarily concern the joy and serendipity found when walking around a large city such as New York
  2. 00
    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Othemts)
  3. 00
    Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (Othemts)
  4. 01
    The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (Othemts)
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» See also 184 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
I almost wanted to shelve this one on my GR Memoirs shelf, it seems so real! Lillian's voice is so true and her personality so delightful that as I read it I had to keep reminding myself that she was fictional. As it turns out, she and her story were based on a real person, whose archive the author mined for the story. She was well captured! ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
Didn't like. Dull and all the character voices were the same except when they were "other" to the main character aka not white, not straight. Very frustrating. ( )
  carrie734 | Nov 26, 2022 |
In this historical fiction, Lillian Boxfish, 85, is walking through Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, 1984, reflecting on her life. The book delves further into history through Lillian’s memories of the various places she has lived, people she has met, and significant milestones in her life. Lillian at one point was the highest paid woman in advertising and an acclaimed poet. She made difficult decisions, altering her career path based on marriage and motherhood, which at the time was even more challenging due to the social norms of the day.

The author has created a memorable character in Lillian, a spirited, independent, and capable senior woman with a stinging wit and a love of words. The writing is clever and filled with period details. The walk is a construct for the plot, which involves the ups-and-downs of Lillian’s eventful life, her choices, joys, and sorrows. Recommended to those who enjoy books about the city of New York or quiet reflections on a person’s life.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I have mixed thoughts of this book. Based on a true life story of a woman who lived in New York and was very accomplished at selling ads for Macy's, normally if I really liked a book, I will read more, especially if based on a real life story. But, the fact that I am not tempted to read more about this character shows my tepid review of the book.

On New Year's Eve Lillian Boxfish decides to leave a party and walk throughout New York. As she travels, she ruminates about her career, and life. She is spunky, brash and forward in many ways. A lover of New York, she has little understanding of those who grew weary of the crime and pace and moved out of the city.

Her judgments are quick, and at times brutal. She is not a person I would choose as a friend. I would find her interesting, but would move along to someone else to learn more about.

Well written, it simply was not a book I can recommend.

2.5 Stars ( )
  Whisper1 | Oct 7, 2022 |
Well written, bittersweet. ( )
  TMLL | Aug 1, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Today, Chicago has its own literary flâneuse, Kathleen Rooney. Her new novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, is about an elderly woman who walks from midtown to downtown Manhattan and back on New Year’s Eve, 1984. But Lillian Boxfish isnt just any elderly woman, she’s a fictional version of Margaret Fishback, the real-life female Don Draper of 1940s advertising and an accomplished poet. And Rooney isn’t just any writer: she walks hundreds of miles every year, exploring cities on foot.

The book bounces around the 20th century and tackles themes of work, time, motherhood, and what it means to be truly in love with a city. It’s one of my all-time favorite New York novels, right up there with Winter’s Tale, Invisible Man, and The Golem and the Jinni. I recently spoke with Rooney about walking, writing, Fishback, New York, and Chicago.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kathleen Rooneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sands, XeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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"--

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