Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney


Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin's Press, 2017
287 pages
source: purchased

Summary (from goodreads):
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 thoughts:

Meandering, thoughtful, light on plot. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, a novel about a woman and the city she cherishes, is truly a delightful read.

I opened the book, discovered endpapers imprinted with a map of Manhattan detailing Lillian's journey, and instantly fell in love.

On New Year's Eve in 1984, 85-year-old  Lillian Boxfish takes a long walk around Manhattan. From her Murray Hill apartment, to Battery Park, St. Vincent's Hospital, and eventually Macy's in Herald Square, with stops at restaurants, a bodega, a house party in Chelsea, and Penn Station, the walk chronicles her interactions with old friends and random strangers, as well as her ruminations on life and the city she loves.

Not all that much actually happens in this novel, but Lillian's interactions with clerks, restaurant patrons, and would-be muggers will make you laugh and may even bring a tear to your eye. I especially enjoyed her reflections on career (she was a Macy's advertising executive in the 1930s), love, marriage, and motherhood.

By the way, Lillian Boxfish is loosely based on the life of Margaret Fishback. Don't miss the author's note at the end.

Very highly recommended.

Pearls of wisdom from Lillian:
“No one survives the future.” 
“Time only goes in that one direction.” 
“Any day you walk down a street and find nothing new but nothing missing counts as a good day in a city you love.” 
“Here’s some free advice: Make an honest assessment of the choices you’ve made before you look askance at somebody else’s.” 
“The point of living in the world is just to stay interested.” 
“If you love something, know that it will leave on a day you are far from ready.” 
“... my true religion is actually civility. Please note that I do not call my faith “politeness.” That’s part of it, yes, but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity— one’s own and others’— but only to the extent that that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.”
My rating:

26 comments:

  1. Lillian has been on my TBR list since January. Now I want to get to it more than ever!

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    1. Thanks, Susie. I really loved this book!

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  2. I had a feeling you would love this one! I'm so glad you did. :)

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    1. Audrey - Thanks again for the recommendation!

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  3. Oh my, you've made this sound delightful!

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  4. I spent a lot of time in Manhattan in the mid to late eighties. This sounds interesting iof only for that reason.

    Some of those quotations are fantastic.

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    1. Brian Joseph - I think you would like Lillian's thoughts on 80s Manhattan!

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  5. My sister just read this and loved it, too!

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  6. I just finished it too! And really enjoyed it. And you're right - so many pearls of wisdom from Lillian. Loved her commentary on being a high powered career woman in a time when those didn't really exist.
    And - I read the Kindle version, so didn't get the map. Sounds like I missed out!

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    1. Sarah - It's too bad the kindle version didn't include the map somewhere. I always loves maps (and family trees) in novels!

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  7. Glad to know you enjoyed this! I just picked this up yesterday. Plan on starting it in a little while.

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    1. Vicki - I hope you enjoy it, too!

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  8. I cannot wait to experience this book. I'm on the wait list for the audio version at the library, but I think I have to see that map, so maybe I'll do a read/listen approach. Lovely review of what sounds like a love story with the city.

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    1. JaneGS - Even if you just take a look at the map in a bookstore, it adds a lot. But then again, I am a sucker for maps, charts, and family trees in novels...

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  9. "meandering" is exactly why This didn't work for me - I tired the audio and the print. Glad u liked it and, some of those quotes were great.

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    1. Diane - I understand how the meandering style might not work for some readers. This book found me at the perfect time though... it was exactly what I was in the mood to read.

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  10. I've just begun reading about Lillian's adventures in the Big Apple. I agree with your summation of it being light reading, but one should enjoy some light reading now and then. I enjoyed the map also as it brought back fond memories of my exploring the streets of New York on foot, from Central Park and the West Side, all the way down to the Village. Would love to do more exploring there again sometime.

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    1. JudyMac - New York is such a great city to wander and explore! I look forward to spending time in the city with our daughters again soon... only a few more weeks in FL. Hope you're enjoying Lillian's walk as much as I did.

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  11. This sounds absolutely delightful! I actually didn't know too much about it but after reading your review it's definitely going on my radar.

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    1. Iliana - It's a very "New York" novel, but totally wonderful.

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  12. I see this one at bookstores. Always like its cover. Now knowing the inside is good too, I must put this on my TBR list. Thanks JoAnn. And have a Happy Easter!

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    1. Thank you, Arti. Happy Easter to you and your family, too!

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  13. Wonderful. This book sounds like a winner and one I need to get to, thanks for the review!

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    1. Susan - This was such an enjoyable read for me. Hope it will be for you, too!

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