Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As she has done in her other “Rosamond Smith” crime fiction, Joyce Carol Oates twists her narrative around the twining of the central characters in Starr Bright Will Be With You Soon. The central character, Rose of Sharon Donner, along with her fraternal twin Lily of the Valley Donner, is the daughter of a “God-besotted” minister in Yewville in upstate New York. Her movie-star good looks win her a teen talent contest, and using the stage name of “Starr Bright,” she enters into a life of modeling and later exotic dancing, where she is cruelly exploited by men.

When the story begins, she is barely surviving on her fading beauty which still attracts the kind of man she can now manipulate for money. In a sleazy motel room, her game goes sour after she is beaten up by her “john,” and she kills him in a rage of fear and retribution. Triggered by the incident she embarks on a rampage to rid the world of the sinners, fornicators, and pigs who prey on women like herself. As the police close in, she escapes and returns to her sister and her family who live in her home town.

While living with Lily, her husband, Wes, and their daughter, Deidre, who is really her own illegitimate child, the base reason for her homicidal urgings becomes clear—the result of a gang rape. At first merely exhausted, run to ground she claims, as she regains her strength she also begins to kill the local men who raped her, until Wes and Lily finally expose her and bring about her breakdown and confession.