Kathleen Rooney has written a fascinating book about a fascinating woman in Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. The novel is based on a real person, Margaret Fishback, who lived in the 1930s and published witty poetry and several books. Like Margaret, Lillian, the fictional character works for many years as an ad writer for Macy’s Department store.The story takes place in one evening and night, New Year’s Eve, 1984, in Manhattan, as Lillian Boxfish walks alone for a total of ten miles. As she walks, she considers her life, which covered ” ” from “the jazz age to the AIDS epidemic,” “from the Great Depression to the birth of hip hop.” It not only explores the changes in Lillian Boxfish,but the changes in N.Y. specifically, and the US in general. Lillian is extremely openminded for an octogenarian, and is flexible to at least accept change as it throws itself at her. As a reviewer said, “There is a little of Lillian Boxfish in all of us. And if there isn’t, there ought to be.”
Another book I finished this week was Kaya McLaren’s Church of the Dog. Interestingly enough, it was originally published in 2000, then after input and advice from fans and book club appearances, the author re-wrote it, making extensive changes and re-published it in 2008. The novel is set in Oregon farm country among the many cattle ranches and “good country people” who occupy them. One such couple is the McRaes, whose lives are turned around and upside down by the appearance of Maura O’ Shawnessey, who has the “gift,” as the Irish say. She fixes up an old bunkhouse on the McRaes’ property which comes to be called “The Church of the Dog” by the neighbors because of it’s arched entrance and mural of a friendly dog on the front. Surprisingly, a real dog, who looks exactly the same as the mural arrives one night in the middle of a thunderstorm, which Maura names Zeus, appropriately, since Zeus was the god of the thunderbolt and storm. The novel holds many surprises and completely redefines the concept of “family.” However, no surprise is bigger than the surprise ending. It is available in large print at the Alvin Library.