On New Years Eve, 1984, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out for a party in Manhattan. Wrapped in her mink coat, she walks over 10 miles around the city, meeting all manner of characters and reflecting on a life filled with excitement, challenges, and romance. Once one of the most successful women in advertising in the country, she has lived a life of excitement and witnessed the changing city through the decades. Hailed as a “love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur,” Lillian may have aged, but like the city she loves, she hasn’t changed entirely.
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She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”
Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now―her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl―but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed―and has not.
A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.