(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In the epilogue of the novel, which takes place in 1989, Maddy describes one of her infrequent returns to Hammond, from a quiet life in New Mexico, when she runs into Rita O’Hagan, now married. They reminisce about Legs, and Rita shows Maddy a newspaper photograph from 1961 of Legs—with Fidel Castro. What has actually happened to the charismatic leader, however, will stay a mystery. What remains is the devotion that the other girls still have for the legendary Legs, a love which also has a certain teenage homosexual tension to it. The confessions that Maddy is transcribing here from the old notebooks are her own gift to Legs, her adolescent, larger-than-life heroine who briefly created a “true blood-sisterhood” among these homeless girls.

Foxfire is thus a novel about the 1950’s from the unique perspective of a member of a gang of girls. The narrative, broken into five parts, slips easily from the first person into the third person and back, as Maddy describes her own feelings at the same time that she is chronicling the exploits of this gang and even gets into the head of Legs in prison. There is a rushed quality to the prose which captures perfectly this adolescent 1950’s world. Like so much of the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates, readers are carried into a historical moment and into the minds of younger people experiencing it. As Maddy writes, “it was a time of violence against girls and women but we didn’t have the language to...

(The entire section is 579 words.)