Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

I like books about journeys. I'm not sure exactly why, but when someone sets out on some sort of personal journey, I'm in. I also like quirky books that feature unique characters. So books like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, and Around the World in 80 Days are some of my favourites. In my experience, a good book about a personal journey usually features some amazing characters. Lillian Boxfish is one such character.

Rob recently discovered this book at Indigo and thought it would be right up my alley. Once again, he was right.

85-year old Lillian Boxfish (but she'll tell you she's only 84) is preparing to ring out 1984 and ring in 1985, she will be doing this, as she usually does, alone. Her plan is to leave her apartment in the Murray Hill district of New York City and walk to her traditional New Year's Eve restaurant, then return home and be in bed long before the ball drops in Times Square. However, she eats a few too many Oreos before heading out and when she arrives at the restaurant she just isn't hungry. So she leaves and keeps on walking. Her destination often changes throughout the night, but the walking remains.

Along the way she encounters many interesting situations and characters. And as she walks she remembers her life to this point, the successes, the failures, and the secrets. We learn that she was at one time the highest paid woman in advertising in the world, working for her beloved W.H. Macy's. She was a woman way ahead of her time, living alone in New York City, fighting to receive the same pay as men doing the same job, and asserting her independence when all the other women around her seemed to want nothing more than to find a husband.

New York City is in her blood and she knows and loves it well. As she walks the streets on this New Year's Eve, you see the city through her eyes, and meet many of its great people.

It is not a book of high excitement, but it is a great story, with great characters. To say it moves a little slowly is an understatement, but I like that kind of a story once in a while. The whole book takes place over the course of one night, with flashbacks from her earlier life mixed in to bring depth to the story.

I found it interesting to read that Lillian Boxfish was loosely based on Margaret Fishback, who was the highest-paid female advertising copywriter in the world in the 1930's. Many liberties are taken with Margaret's story, but some of the facts remain.

This was a big hit for me, and if you like character-driven stories then you'll probably like it too. If you like a lot of action and a quick moving story then this probably isn't the book for you.

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