Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is one of the very best character-driven books that I have read in a long time. Written conversationally from Lillian's standpoint, it's as if you are having a chat with an old friend. Lillian's views of her various decades in NYC are a joy to read and offer what feels like a cultural tourism of another time. Based on a real person, this is fictionalized history done right. Recommended By Tracey T., Powells.com
Kathleen Rooney has created a fully realized and compelling character in Lillian Boxfish. I just loved getting to know Lillian as she strolls Manhattan on New Year's Eve, 1984. One of the first successful female copywriters and a popular poet of the '20s and '30s, Lillian is still, in her 85th year, whip smart, witty, and profoundly truthful about herself and those she has known and loved in her long life. The novel is also a poem to the city of New York. You'll be enchanted. Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
“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.
“Prescient and quick....A perfect fusing of subject and writer, idea and ideal.” Chicago Tribune
“Transporting…witty, poignant and sparkling.” People (People Picks Book of the Week)
"Inspired by Margaret Fishback, poet and Macy’s ad-writing phenom of the 1930s, Rooney imagines an extraordinary walk through the streets of New York City on the last night of 1984, one that triggers a flood of memories for fictional ad woman Lillian Boxfish. The octogenarian muses on the changing urban landscape as she stops at favorite haunts: an intimate neighborhood bar that’s just installed a TV, a restaurant where she’s dined every New Year’s Eve that’s about to change owners, the famed Delmonico’s, where she ended her marriage. Further stops include a changing lower Manhattan landscape where she meets a haunted Vietnam veteran and engages him in a “best last-line contest,” a detour to a hospital emergency room with a frightened woman about to have her first baby, and a party where she’s both scorned and adored by a new generation of artists, followed by a hilarious encounter with three muggers. Meanwhile, Lillian carefully recounts her celebrated career in advertising, her adored husband and son, and her emotional breakdown. Elegantly written, Rooney creates a glorious paean to a distant literary life and time—and an unabashed celebration of human connections that bridge the past and future. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM Partners. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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, was published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.