I agree with St. Martin’s Press editor Hope Dellon: I want to be Lillian Boxfish when I grow up.
Lillian, 85 (or is she 84?), sets out on New Year’s Eve 1984 down the streets of Manhattan. She’s always been a walker. It clears her head, it keeps her healthy and it gets her out among the masses, which she seems to live for. Her friends and loved ones would prefer she take a cab on this particular night, as the Subway Vigilante remains at large. It doesn’t matter – Lillian will do as she pleases.
“Whenever ‘everyone’ is doing something, I seek to avoid it. But whenever someone tells me not to do something, that thing has a way of becoming the only thing that I want to do.”
I’ve been there!
As she walks, Lillian reflects on the nearly 60 years she’s spent in New York City. She made a name for herself as an advertising copywriter for Macy’s and a light verse poet. She married, had a child and divorced. I won’t say much more about Lillian’s past, as I don’t want to give too much away.
Interspersed with her reminiscences are encounters with a diverse cast of characters she meets as she walks. I think my favorite is the Vietnam veteran who’s working as a night watchman at the construction site of what will become Battery Park City. Lillian seems to click with a lot of the people she comes across, but the way she connects with Stu really resonates with me for some reason.
I absolutely love this book and everything about it. Lillian Boxfish is one cool chick, the kind of lady I’d want by my side if I ever make it to the Big Apple. She’s stylish, open-minded, whip-smart and wickedly funny. And, contrary to what certain parties might think, she’s still relevant.
And how fascinating that a real-life Lillian Boxfish, a lady named Margaret Fishback, was the inspiration for this novel. Thank you, Kathleen Rooney, for all your research on Fishback and for providing a fictionalized glimpse into the life of a remarkable woman.
If you are looking for a book that will sweep you away and hit you right in the feels, you absolutely must take a walk with Lillian Boxfish.
I received an ARC from St. Martin’s Press (via a Goodreads giveaway) in exchange for an honest review.
See my “Lillian Boxfish” Reading Notes entry here.
About the author
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.