~ It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—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. (via Goodreads)

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is the first 2017 release that I actually read in 2017, but I’m not sure that I liked it. It wasn’t a bad novel, it was just a distant one.

It really was a love letter to New York on New Year’s Eve, in all its strange glory, and with all its different people. Lillian was snarky, stubborn and still hopeful, which was delightful to read.

I would have liked to learn more about her as a career woman, because it was so much a part of her life, but it felt like it was just glanced over because it wasn’t what she was doing at the time of the book.

However, I had two large issues with the novel. My biggest issue is the entire plot of the novel is summed up in the summary above. My other big issue was that every character was a caricature of a real person, and we never got close enough to any of them to really feel invested in the story. My favorite minor character was Penny, the little kid from the restaurant, and I think she had three lines.

That’s why this is a three star review for me. It comes out tomorrow, and if this sounds more like your cup of tea, you can pick up a copy through Amazon, Indiebound, or your other favorite bookseller.

three stars

 ~ Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.

5 thoughts on “Review:: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney”

  1. Well! I am sad the book wasn’t great for you, BUT sort of relieved on my own behalf. I keep swearing off books set in New York, which I always get excited about and then virtually never enjoy, and I was totally going to read this one too if you’d liked it. I AM WEAK.

    1. I’m happy to have saved you from it, then. Then again, it might be somebody’s thing. It just didn’t capture me the way I wanted it to – a problem I’ve had with several books this year, unfortunately.

  2. I was really excited about this book when I read the above blurb and then put off after I read your review lol. This book sounds like it had a lot of potential, but it was wasted. Thank you for being so honest about this book!

    Anjulie Te Pohe
    korumag.wordpress.com

    1. I think it could have been exactly what I wanted if it had just focused a little bit more, but alas, it wasn’t. I always hate writing reviews like this but I just didn’t like the book. Such is life!

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