Lillian Boxfish goes for a walk through New York City, New Years Eve, 1984.
Years ago I read and loved the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry so when I first heard of this book my line of thinking was, well, maybe this might fall into that category of storytelling.
All in all it seems to me a pretty simple idea.
But, it’s not simple. It is far from simple. It is moving and it is fun and it is sweet and it is heartbreaking and it is witty and above all – like our protagonist – it is very very smart.
This is a beautiful, multilayered journey that covers two miles and 84 (85 if we are being honest) years of the life of an extraordinary woman who – for the most part – lived a full and marvelous life.
Her name is Lillian Boxfish and in the 1930’s she was the highest paid ad-writing female in America. She met someone, fell in love, got married, and got pregnant. Conventional thinking of the times would have you believe that is the proper order of life. It was expected. What was also expected was a woman leaving her job to become a mother regardless of successes, status and/or income. Sure, she continued to write poetry, advertising copy, greeting cards, four line limericks leaving the fifth to be decided by readers and a magazine’s editor. But in the 1930’s and 40’s a woman’s place was in the home raising her children.
Lillian was so much more than “just a mother,” and I use the word “just” with consternation as there is likely no greater role on this earth than that of a loving parent.
But Lillian was so much more than a stay at home Mom. Hell, she was so much more than most.
My God, she was beautiful and to this day I still have no true idea of what she looks like. Author Kathleen Rooney may have described her appearance early on but for one reason or another, it escapes me. It is not important anyway, because all I see when I close my eyes and think of Lillian Boxfish is a brilliant, sharp witted, curious, open minded, willing and at times, a troubled soul with whom I would love to have a glass of wine with….or a bottle.
She, like all amazingly beautiful people, has a multitude of flaws. I will not give anything away, of course, but suffice it to say there was a period in her life when she came face-to-face with a bleak moment. As much of an impact as that time was, and how it continued to construct the person she was to become years after, she never lost that way about her. By that, I mean there was this way where she would give you reasons to never forget her.
She was – she is – memorable.
We found this to be true in several instances. Along this two-mile walk we meet bohemians and store clerks, chauffeurs and artists, parents-to-be and a Vietnam vet security guard; a welcoming family at dinner and a scene with three criminal’s that may be the book’s funniest moment.
Oh, I assure you, Lillian Boxfish’s walk in New York City may seem simple from the outset, and Amazon.com book summary, but it is far from it … unless you want to say it is simply lovely. Then you would be within your rights to use an alternate form of the word. From the time you first crack the binding open, to the moment you close the book, press it against your chest, breathe in deep, wrap your arms around it, you will find yourself so very pleases you have met, and spent this New Year’s Eve with, the remarkable – the oh so very memorable – Lillian Boxfish.
So I say buy this book. Support this author. This is the very reason why we read books and Lillian is someone you will want to get to know.
She is, simply, lovely.
Words I learned while reading: One of my favorite parts of reading is constantly learning words I have either (a) never heard before (b) words I have heard and possess only a vague understanding of their meaning based on the context in which they’ve been written and (c) the most frustrating of the lot – the words I know I know the meaning of until I actually look them up to ensure I am correct only to learn I misunderstood it’s true meaning. That last lot have an * beside them. Here is the contribution that I received from Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
Contralto – the lowest female singing voice – Vanitas – a still-life painting of a 17th-century Dutch genre containing symbols of death or change as a reminder of their inevitability – Insouciance * (inˈso͞osēəns,) – casual lack of concern; indifference. – Stentorian – (of a person’s voice) loud and powerful. – Enjambments – (in verse) the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza. – Housmanian – reference to an English classical scholar and poet. – Unfraught – not burdened. – Egalitarian – relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. – Petulant* – (of a person or their manner) childishly sulky or bad-tempered. – Joie de vivre (ˌZHwä də ˈvēvrə/)* – exuberant enjoyment of life. – Oleaginous (ˌōlēˈajənəs)- rich in, covered with, or producing oil; oily or greasy AND exaggeratedly and distastefully complimentary; obsequious. “Candidates made the usual oleaginous speeches in the debate.” – Poniard (ˈpänyərd/) – a small, slim dagger. – Endemic* – (of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area. “Areas where malaria is endemic.” – Flanerie (ˌflän(ə)ˈrē/) – aimless idle behavior.