Last year, I strolled into my neighborhood bookstore and browsed their sale section, because who doesn’t want to snag a book for $5.99? Among the sale books, Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk sat among the shelves, peering out at me as if I needed to grab her. The cover was stunning so I was intrigued enough to read the synopsis on the back. It seemed interesting enough, and because it was on sale, I grabbed it. Little did I know that sale book would become one of my most favorite books yet and Lillian would become my favorite fictional character of all time.
Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk is a book that does not get nearly enough credit or attention, in my opinion. For whatever reason, some books hit social media and #bookstagram huge, and others don’t. I feel it’s my duty to pay due diligence to my dear friend Lillian, and explain to you why you should read this.
The entire novel spans across one night, New Years Eve of 1984. Each chapter alternates between present time and Lillian’s past life. During present time, 85 year old Lillian takes a walk on NYE around the city, visiting places of her pastime that held significance to her. Truly, I wouldn’t want to walk around NYC with anyone else besides Lillian. She reflects, laughs, cries and cherishes the past 70+ years of her life. We learn in the 1930s, she was the highest paid advertising woman in the country writing copy for R.H. Macy’s
Lillian takes us through moments during her life, both big and small, that have made a significant impact. We learn that Lillian was a badass – literally. She fought for things in the 1930s that women today are still fighting for; gender equality in the workplace, closing the pay gap, maternity leave benefits. She stood her ground and refused to be treated as an object in a male-dominated industry. She loved her life and she loved living in New York City even more. She was a firecracker who died her hair red and rocked orange lipstick like no one else. She takes us around the city as if we were quite literally walking beside her, walking us through many real-life issues; figuring out whether to give up her career to become a wife and mom, mental illness, happiness, the meaning of life.
Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk made me nostalgic for a city and era that I have never lived in. At times, I felt like I was a NYC resident in the 1930’s who attended the elaborate ad parties with Lillian. Other times, I felt like a proud New Yorker sad to see the historic buildings being replaced with modernism and the crime rate rising. Lillian could teach us all a few things about life – here is what she taught me:
- It is OK to be career-driven and want to be successful. It is ALSO ok to want marriage and motherhood, just as bad
- Doing something because it’s what society is doing does not always mean it will make you happy
- Be proud of the city you live in. Embrace the weirdness, the changes, and the history
- Be kind and make an effort to get to know every person you cross paths with. You can learn so much about a person just by striking up a simple conversation while waiting in line to pay for your coffee
- When you have the means to give back, do it
- It’s ok to not be ok; to not be happy. Speak up to those you trust have your best interests in mind
- Just because you’re 85 years young does NOT mean you can’t stop being fabulous
- Walking is pure therapeutic goodness for the soul
- Be your own kind of bold and beautiful. Wear the firey orange lipstick and die your hair red if it makes you feel good
- Take life with a grain of salt: appreciate everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. Life is precious and we only get one chance to make it the best it can be.
We can all benefit from viewing life through a new set of eyes, such as Lillian’s. Give this book a chance, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at all that you gain.