Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Oh. My. Goodness. What a story! I mean really! It took a couple of pages to get into Lillian’s head, to realize she is one feisty woman who has standards, who lived her life her way, and once I did get into her head I couldn’t and wouldn’t have fought my way out.
Lillian Boxfish came to New York City in 1926 ready to begin her life. She finds a job with R.H. Macy’s Department store writing advertising copy. She is witty, she is smart, she knows how to hook the interest of the customer with her poetry and humor in ways not used today, and eventually in the 1930’s she is the highest paid advertising woman in the country. She is also the published author of four volumes of poetry. But that comes later.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve 1984 and Lillian ate so many Oreo cookies ( that she didn’t even want nor can recall buying and wonders why they are even in the house ) she is afraid she won’t be able to eat the dinner she planned to eat at her favorite restaurant around the corner. So she takes a walk. Lillian walks. She’s always walked and in her walking she stayed sane, tuned in to her world and her thoughts. She said walking saved her life.
But, again, back to tonight, New Year’s Eve. Lillian begins her walk and each part of her walk brings her into contact with people she interacts with. People who find a lone 84 (or maybe it’s 85) year old woman in a mink coat, funky hat and tights hard to not talk to. A limousine driver, a pregnant woman, a bodega clerk, children, a security guard, muggers, she shows interest in all of them and a respect that unsettles them and then continues on her walk. She leaves all of them a bit befuddled as she walks away, that five minute conversation enriching us.
It’s New Year’s Eve and she ends up walking 10 miles around New York City and as she walks she thinks and as she thinks she tells us her story as she passes the landmarks of her life. Lillian has always looked to be an independent woman who insisted on being allowed to be independent. Spending this night her way is just expected. After awhile we are right there with her but boy, my feet would be tired long before hers were!
The biographical points are based on real life Margaret Fishback, who held the same position at R. H. Macy’s, wrote four volumes of poetry, married the head carpet buyer for R. H. Macy’s and had one son. But that’s just the biographical part. The author imagined Lillian’s life and it’s a treasure. Under no circumstances let this one get away from you! Wow. Run, don't walk to the bookstore.