Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (2017)

by Victor Hugo

Kathleen Rooney was the first nonarchivist to delve into the papers of Margaret Fishback, the highest-paid female advertising writer in the world in the 1930s. Fascination with the pioneering copywriter, poet, and feminist inspired Rooney to imagine Fishback as an old woman alone in New York City in the 1980s. Renamed Lillian Boxfish for the novel, she has retained her spunk, intelligence, and wit into her 80s.

On the last night of 1984, Lillian takes a walk of more than 10 miles from her apartment in Murray Hill to lower Manhattan and back via Macy’s, her old workplace. Walking in New York is a favorite pastime, and she ignores warnings that it’s not safe for an old woman to be walking in the city alone at night. She has many encounters along the way, the riskiest of which, with three muggers, turns out to be hilarious due to Lillian’s pluck. When not meeting people, Lillian recollects her past as female trailblazer, premier ad writer, published poet, wife, and mother, and then the not-so-happy time of her divorce and depressive breakdown.

Both Lillian’s engaging personality and the description of a changing Manhattan make Lillian Boxfish Talks a Walk a charming read.


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