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Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  8,756 Ratings  ·  1,805 Reviews
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 s
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published January 17th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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Popular Answered Questions

Jane No. Although if the adolescent were very familiar with lower Manhattan and had a good knowledge of cultural and societal history it might be readable,…moreNo. Although if the adolescent were very familiar with lower Manhattan and had a good knowledge of cultural and societal history it might be readable, but not necessarily enjoyable. I you are looking for a story about a woman ahead of her day, there are probably several written specifically for adolescents. It is also important to know what New York City was like in 1985, which was quite different from today. If a book were written based on the life of Margaret Fishback specifically for this age, it would include more historical support within it. It might also be told from the voice of her grand daughter Lilly. I agree with Jendlo. (less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote it so I think it's pretty good.
Will Byrnes
Arriving in a Roaring Twenty
at a time of hope and plenty
Full of vim and joi de vivre
Aimed to stay and wouldn’t leave

Lilly made her mark with Macy
writing rhymes to make the case he
needed to attract the shopper.
Many tried, but none could top her.

Used her wit to publish books
of poems with a jaundiced look
At romance. And with each edition
earned more cash and recognition.

A true and very public spinster
’till a special guy convinced her
She should wear his golden band.
And risk some tarnish to her b
Kathleen Rooney is a goodreads' friend of mine, and over the past few months I have noticed a number of other goodreads friends reading her debut novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. I was drawn to the lovely cover and to the fact that Rooney lives in my home city of Chicago and that she has been named one of the city's up and coming writers during the past year. That the subject is an often forgotten pioneering woman reminiscing on the events in her life has been an added bonus. Reading about L ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
THANK YOU *St. Martin's Press*!!!! A BIG TIME THANK YOU!!!! Had I not received their sweet email recommendation --- I may have missed this doozy-knock-out-smashing-whopper-pistol of a WONDERFUL novel!!!!

It's funny... I read most of this in bed -on my Kindle ebook - during the dark sleepy hours listening to the pouring rain outside my window, but I had never seen the book 'cover' until now. The cover perfectly captures the image of our leading lady. "Lillian Boxfish". Its exactly how I imagined h
Diane S ☔
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Lillian at the age of eighty five takes a walk through Manhattan. As she walks she meets many people and remembers the past. Based on an actual person, Lillian has led an interesting life, loved, lost, and reached the pinnacle of success.

I really wish I could have loved this like some of my friends here did, not sure why I didn't. Maybe it was the tone that basically stayed the same throughout the novel or the fact that in many books in the past few years the elderly have walked with varying suc
REALLY enjoyed the journey! Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC.

Alternating between past and present, Lillian Boxfish revisits her very interesting and long life via a five mile nostalgic trek thru The Big Apple as one year ends and another begins.

During the walk, we learn first and foremost that Lillian has a natural gift of gab with an ability to influence and negotiate with even the toughest of opponents. Determined to be a spinster for life, she has a strong work ethic and

Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
In a walk her life. Her entire life. No. Not Virginia Woolf, nor her formidable creation Clarissa Dalloway. Instead, this is a figure that's less oppressive, much more chipper. Though not any less literary & monolithic.

Never once in the company of this prolific, successful, mega charismatic woman do you feel betrayed--it contains the certainty of biography, with details so concrete & rich; you never fall out of her immediate orbit. She's irresistibly graceful & dignified.
Iris P
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

★★★★★ 5 Lovely Stars!

I received a free advance e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

For centuries poets have used walking as a conduit to meditate, drive inspiration and find a path to enlightenment. For 85 year-old Lillian Boxfish, the zany, clever protagonist of this novel, her years as a walking poet might be behind her, but she's still someone who has the ene
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's New Years Eve 1984, and 85 yr old Lillian Boxfish takes a long walk through Manhattan and reminisces about her life as a wife, mother, grandmother, and top paid advertising agent for Macy's in the 1930's. Her main destination is Delmonico's steakhouse where she last had a dinner with her dead ex husband Max, though she makes many stops along the way and comes in contact with many different people.
Lillian has had quite a life, is a true lady and she loves to walk, walks everywhere, and says
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
2 Stars


On New Year’s Eve 1984, Lillian Boxfish takes a walk. During that walk, she recounts most of the major (and several minor) events in her life, starting in the 1920s. This life was filled with a glamorous career in advertising, a crumbling marriage and stints of electro-shock therapy.

This sounded really exciting. But to me it felt like when your grandma pulls you aside at Thanksgiving to tell you “back-in-my-day” stories.


I received an ARC of this through Netgalley. Thank you to
Nov 22, 2016 added it
Shelves: fiction
The Hook - Overwhelming praise from my GoodReads friend Elyse sent me quickly to Netgalley to request the e-galley of Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk. You may read Elyse’s Review here.
I cannot thank the author, Kathleen Rooney or St. Martin’s Press enough for granting my early access to this book, which publishes January 17, 2017.

The Line - Per the publisher’s request no part of the text may be quoted until the book is published. Paraphrasing a sentence that gave me pause for thought is one that st
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book, told in Lillian’s voice, is pitch perfect. It captures the times, the place and the woman perfectly. It just felt like I was right in Lillian’s head. Lillian and I were born 50+ years apart, but so many of the issues were the same for both of us, like being one of the few women in our profession and fighting for equal pay. It also struck me that I'm reading this on Equal Pay Day in 2017, so some things still haven't changed.

But the message here is to enjoy life no matter what it thro

Before I knew that this book was inspired by the true story of Margaret Fishback, I was wondering how the last name 'Boxfish'(and even Fishback for that matter) came about. It reminded me of the joke names chosen in the previous centuries when people were forced to choose a surname and many of them did it under great protest.

Names such as Obadiah Cockswinger and Chastity Goodtime resulted from it. Others were chosen for a different purpose and could easily be changed. For inst
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it

Kathleen Rooney’s 2017 novel about, literally, Lillian Boxfish taking a walk is enchanting mainly because of her creation of the wonderfully charismatic character Lillian Boxfish.

In an Author’s note at the end, Rooney describes how Lillian was inspired by the real life Margaret Fishback, a successful advertising copyright in the 19302, but how beyond the inspiration Lillian Boxfish is her fictional creation.

Born in 1899 (but lying about her age for decades and saying she was born in 190
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.5 stars. I liked a lot of things about Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, but I didn't love it. Lillian is 84 years old in 1984. It's New Year's Eve, and she's walking across Manhattan reminiscing about her life. In her prime, she was the highest paid female advertising copy writer and she was a poet. She had a failed marriage, a son she adores and a stint with serious mental health issues. Alternating chapters take us on different parts of her New Year's Eve walk and through her earlier years. Odd ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Update: Audio is great. At the end, the narrator interviews the author. So worth a listen, brings the book alive. Ordered my hardcopy today. (Got to have the map!) Can't wait until my next trip to NYC so I can follow in Lillian's footsteps!

Profound. Utterly inspiring. This is an exceptional book. Lillian plans to walk to dinner on New Year's Eve, 1984, but she ends up walking miles through NYC, and through the decades of her life, both glamorous, tough, and back. Lillian herself is exceptional.
Paul Bryant
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
The first thing is, Kathleen Rooney wrote two of my favourite books, which are the excellently brainy Reading with Oprah and the intriguing memoir Live Nude Girl. The second thing is, Kathleen Rooney is a Goodreads author, so that means she might just possibly read this review. That has happened to me about six times now, an author suddenly commenting on one of my reviews of their books. It’s unnerving. It’s like you having a chat with your best friend about Miss So-and-so and when you glance in ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
"...I got my idea to combine my love of (Margaret) Fishback with my love of cities and flaniêre; I resolved to write a novel that would bring these two affinities together." Kathleen Rooney, author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

And so, we are introduced to Lillian, a fictional representative of the once esteemed and highly paid advertising copy writer for R.H. Macy, New York for two decades beginning in the 1930s. Like Dorothy Parker who followed Fishback, snappy wit gave her recognition, as
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, botm, 2017
This is somewhere between a 3.5 - 4 stars for me, but I'll round up because that ending was fantastic. I could tell the author was also a poet for most of the novel, but the way she was able to succinctly and powerfully tie up the whole thing was definitely poetic. Lillian Boxfish is a great character, based on the real-life Margaret Fishback. I loved the historical aspect of this, especially as the book takes place on the last evening of 1984 while Lillian takes a walk around NYC and remembers ...more
Diane Barnes
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel is a one woman show, with Lillian Boxfish front and center. From her arrival in New York City at the age of 25, until her New Years Eve walk on the last day of 1984, we get the story of her life and all the things that matter to her. Yes, there is a husband and a son, friends, a satisfying career, all the trappings of a life well lived, along with regrets and set-backs, but we are in Lillian's head on this journey, and I thought it was a wonderful place to be.
Let me tell you a few of
It's the last day of 1984 and the octogenarian Lillian Boxfish is walking around New York, as she'd done for six decades. You see, Lillian is a walker. Walking has saved her life.

While going from place to place, Lillian retraces many of her life's milestones: moving to New York, in search of adventure and to escape her parents; her much loved job at Macy's, writing copy; her marriage and motherhood; her subsequent divorce; losing her job because of impending motherhood, and a major nervous break
ETA: In my view, the narrator of the audiobook does not distort the author's message but intensifies it, and the message itself I dislike.


This novel is inspired by the life of Margaret Fishback. Haven't heard of her? Neither had I! Here is a quick resumé:
Go ahead and read it. It is not going to wreck the story. What is presented are merely the bones on which the fictional story is drawn. Fishback died in 1985. When Lillian dies, we do no
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lillian recalls triumphs, disappointments, joy and tragedy in her life as she takes a long walk in NYC on New Years Eve. No action or crime, but a lovely and charming account of an extraordinary woman's life. The language is like poetry, very easy on the ears (Audible edition). I think you will love Lillian Boxfish.
Stephanie Anze
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
"What is it with you and walking, Lillian?"

Its the last day of 1984. Lillian boxfish dons orange fire lipstick, riding boots and her mink coat, bids Phoebe (her cat) good bye and walks out of her apartment for her standing appointment at her favorite Italian restaurant. As she sets out on foot, she begins to reminisce about her past. At 85 years young, Lillian has had a interesting life, to say the lest.

Inspired by the real life poet and advertising copywriter, Margaret Fishback, Lillian Boxfish
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-ebook
You follow a woman born in 1899, who, while on a walk in 1984, starts to recall her life and how America has changed over the years.

I absolutely adored this book. I took my time with this one, as the writing is so beautiful and the message at the end was so powerful, that I wanted to absorb every word.

And the Oreo obsession-loved it.

When I read the ending..I was at a loss for words-I only had this feeling that Lillian offered us a profound message-to not rush through life or "run from it"
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a well done, kind book. It makes me want to stop and take a stroll. Perfect timing for this book. When life has literally been a storm all around you (hurricane after hurricane) this was a nice reprieve. I love when a book can provide relief from a specific time and event. Bravo!!! We need more representations of Lillian Boxfish around.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Find this & other reviews at Happy Reading!

The book “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” by Kathleen Roney is about the character Lillian Boxfish (of course) who lives in New York City. She leads the reader through the streets of New York as she stops at different destinations celebrating the last night of 1984. As she walks, her memories flash back to the past. She highlights the inspiring and important parts of her life as well as the dark moments that define her.

Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from in return for an honest and fair review. A variation of this review will be published on that site. The story of Lillian boxfish resonated with me in son many ways. Although I am much younger, I was working nights in NYC in the 1980s and was very careful about where I went and when. Kathleen M. Rooney captured the grittiness of the city in that era, before it was cleaned up and made safer. Lillian goes out for dinner and a walk on New Year's Eve 1984 and mee ...more
Terri Jacobson
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
It's New Year's Eve 1984, and octogenarian Lillian Boxfish decides to take a walk. She lives in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan near R.H. Macy's, the great department store she worked at as an advertising executive for many years. As Lillian walks, she meets people--she has a unique ability to draw people out and listen to their stories--and she reflects on the city and her life.

The writing in this book is really nice, definitely above average. There is a recurring image of a crane creating
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's New Year's Eve 1984, and octogenarian Lillian Boxfish is taking a walk to a favorite Manhattan restaurant. She had arrived in New York City in the 1930s, and eventually became the highest-paid advertising woman in the country as well as an accomplished poet. Lillian extends her New Year's Eve stroll by visiting a dozen places that were important in her life. She was successful at work in an era when women had few opportunities. She used her humor in her work and in social situations--with a ...more
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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! (F ...more
More about Kathleen Rooney...

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“I thought at times that poetry might be an elegant way of screaming.” 16 likes
“The point of living in the world is just to stay interested.” 14 likes
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