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January 30, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

9781250113320Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

by Kathleen Rooney


Lillian Boxfish is the highest paid woman working in advertising during the 1930’s.  She works for R.H. Macy’s in New York City and is also a successful poet and writer.   She is fiercely independent and while she enjoys dating, she never wants to get married and have a family.  Per company policy, she would be out of a job if she ever did this.  We meet Lillian on New Year’s Eve 1984, at the age of 84 (as she tells everyone) or 85, per the calendar. She has a grown son and grandchildren.  Through the course of the novel, we learn Lillian’s story as she navigates the city that she has made her home.  She recounts historical details of the city and its social and structural changes from the 1930’s to the 1980’s.

Lillian is more daring in her eighties than most of us are in our youth.  She navigates through all parts of the city by herself during the evening of New Year’s Eve 1984, and her sense of self, respect for others, and natural grace bring her through all the interesting, potentially embarrassing, and dangerous situations she encounters.  As we learn, Lillian has lived through devastating experiences and has survived.  She has outlived most of her friends and acquaintances but still manages to find life interesting and exciting.  She takes a real interest in the people around her and thrives on the connections she makes with them.  I would have loved to encounter Lillian Boxfish out on her walk and been engaged by this witty conversationalist.

The character Lillian Boxfish is based, in part, on the real life Margaret Fishback; who was the highest paid advertising woman in the country when she worked for R. H. Macy’s in the 1930’s and was a poet and writer.  In addition, all of the poetry and advertising attributed to Lillian in the book was actually written by Margaret Fishback.  The novel itself is fictional but it is interesting to imagine that the real Lillian Boxfish might have been a little like the character we read about in this charming novel.  I hope you read this book, and find it as engaging as I did.

Review By:  Heidi Herald