Saturday, September 30, 2023

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Duration: 08:51:00
Published: January 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney was a monthly book club selection by Ginger from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. When she introduced this older novel, she prefaced it by saying it's one she reads every year around Christmas/New Year's. The recommendation, synopsis, and nostalgia piqued my curiosity so off to the library I went for the audio copy. 

I must say, I did enjoy meeting Lillian Boxfish, an octogenarian, who sets out on a walk in New York City on New Year's Eve and, as she takes that walk, she reflects on a live well lived. As readers, we are put in the position of voyeurism, and as such, we learn about her childhood, the aunt who inspired her, her upward-moving career as an advertising copywriter, and her indifference to becoming a wife or mother, yet she becomes both anyway. We learn about her struggles in those areas, some of which lead to her divorce, and finally where she's ended up several decades later. Like real-life professional women, Lillian is multi-faceted, complex, and alluring. 

It's quite possible this is the case because her character is inspired by a real-life poet and advertising professional, Margaret Fishback, who was the highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world in the 1930s. Personally, I related to Lillian a lot - being a professional marketer who has chosen to prioritize my career over being a mother (gasp!). Additionally, Rooney through Lillian's voice, provides a lot of funny quips and thoughtful quotations throughout the story. 

"Choice is an illusion promoted by the powerful." (page 214)

"No matter what first draws our attention, language is where we make our decisions. (page 229)

"...a dull and dogged reminder that I was just like everyone else in suffering the injustice of chronology: I could only walk through it facing forward, going in that one direction." (page 266)
(Most of the quotations I've highlighted here are in the latter part of the book because I snagged an e-copy as I fell more in love with the story. I do intend to mimic Ginger, and read this book again next year.) 

I liked going back and reminiscing to a simpler time with Lillian Boxfish. The book would have been a solid 5-stars for me had it not included the stereotypical tropes of young men of color robbing on the streets of New York. But can I really be angry about something so real through the eyes of an 80-something white woman? I think I will just take it as it is so as to enjoy the story. 

Recommendation: I recommend giving the audiobook a listen as the narrator really brings Lillian to life. A great read for Christmas break to discuss with family and friends. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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