The truth is that I want to be Lillian Boxfish when I grow up. The sad fact is that I am not even Lillian Boxfish now. Damn, I loved this 85 year old woman and her charming, fearless, grit. Probably the biggest way in which I am unlike Lillian is that I spend most of my life afraid that someone is going to speak to me. That’s it. If you were waiting for me to say that I am afraid someone might bludgeon me to death or put me in a sack and throw me in a river, or make me take a super hard math test… nah, my fears lie in human interaction. I wish every day this wasn’t true, but at least I get a lot of reading done. My life motto is ‘I’ll Probably Figure It Out Without Having To Ask’. So far, it’s going great.
In Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, it is New Year’s Eve in New York City in 1984 and Lillian is walking to dinner. She walks by herself through a pre-homogenized Manhattan and reminisces about her long and eventful life and meets a bunch of people along the way that she is not in any way afraid of, and that is really the synopsis of this book. It is absolutely lovely.
We learn about her life as she walks, including the details of her fantastic career at Macy’s advertising – at one point she was the highest paid woman in advertising working, and she was also a trailblazing poet. We learn about the men she loved in her life, including her husband and the heartbreaking story of their marriage and divorce. We learn about her son and her life as a mother, then and now. We also learn about her breakdown, and her intense, determined recovery where she clawed herself back to life. Lillian strolls through town throughout the evening and night, revisiting people and places that have made up her life.
I loved this book. It was funny and sad and it made me want to be brave with my life. And that is really something.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney – Grade B+