The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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February 23, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Of all the genres or categories of books that I read, somehow contemporary fiction is the one I seem to have the least luck with.  But this new novel is a definite exception, and that makes me very happy. :)

Lillian Boxfish is a spry, intelligent, curious, observant, almost-life-long New Yorker, and for part of the story, she's 84 (or really 85...she lies about her age because she wants to have been born in 1900 instead of 1899). She's long-divorced, with a grown son and grandchilden she dotes on, and long-retired from her career writing advertising copy in verse for Macy's and from the fame of being the highest-paid advertising woman in America.  She is also a formerly-famous poet, writing 'lunch poems' as she walks through Manhattan on her lunch hour; now, she wryly admits that she sometimes finds her books sitting unattended on a cheap books cart outside the Strand Bookstore. {In an author interview at the end of the audiobook, I learned that she's based on a real person., which made her all the more interesting.)

Lillian takes her walk on New Year's Eve, in 1984, and as she walks from the neighborhood restaurant she always goes to, to Delmonico's near Wall Street,,through Greenwich Village to Chelsea, to Penn Station, and home again to Murray Hill, she encounters a host of characters, mostly ordinary people;  she also reminisces about her work, her friends and her marriage, about everything that has happened to her, some of it difficult and dark, since she first arrived in New York in 1925.

The entire book is told in her voice and from her point of view, but she's a strong enough and engaging enough character to make that work. I found myself rooting for her.  And it's beautifully written, full of period details (and very well-read, in the audiobook version).  I only wish I'd had been able to listen to it on my Ipod, while walking...that would have been perfect. :)

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin's Press, 2017 (I listened to the audiobook, narrated by XE Sands)
Borrowed from the library


JoAnn said...

Ended up buying this yesterday afternoon and fell in love when I saw a NYC map on the endpapers! Can't wait to start reading this afternoon. Have a feeling this will be one I pass around to my mother and sisters. Thanks for the recommendation.

Bellezza said...

This sounds so delightful! Like you, I have trouble with contemporary fiction (unless it happens to be Japanese) and am so often disappointed by a shallow point of view which seems to tell the same story over and over. But I'm already interested in what this character has to say, and her age is one of the things that most compels me.

JaneGS said...

Sounds like a wonderful book--I'm a big fan of books set in NYC and I'm a fan of walking books as well. Will add it to the list.

Thank you for visiting!

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