If you are not charmed by Lillian Boxfish, then there may be no hope for you.
Lillian—in her green velvet dress, orange fire lipstick, blue fedora and mink coat—doesn’t dress, in her words, “like a typical old lady.” And when Lillian finds herself on an improbable journey through the gritty streets of Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in 1984, readers soon learn that the 85-year-old Ms. Boxfish doesn’t walk, think or live like an old lady either.
Poet Kathleen Rooney’s second novel was inspired by the life of Depression-era advertising doyenne Margaret Fishback, who became the highest paid female ad copywriter in the world. Lauded by society pages for her beauty and wit, Fishback also gained praise and popularity as a poet and writer of modern etiquette guides.
As Lillian weaves her way through New York City, recalling her life and loves, we are treated (yes, treated) to the melancholy humor of a woman who knows she is drifting out of place and yet right at home at the same time. It is inescapably sad to accompany an elderly lady while she ponders the persons and places she has outlived. Yet Lillian’s grace is in her ability to rise above nostalgia.
For some, Lillian will be the stranger you meet who unexpectedly makes your day more pleasant; for others, Lillian will become a fast friend. Either way, the fresh air will do you good.