Picks and Pans Review: Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

updated 08/23/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/23/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joyce Carol Oates

Maddy Wirtz, the official chronicler of Foxfire, a gang of girls from the wrong side of the tracks, looks back 30 years to tell a story of rage, rebellion and violence that began with five girls, a secret blood pact and a flame tattoo.

It's the early '50s in the small upstate New York town of Hammond, and this is no ordinary girl gang. Under the leadership of their almost mythical First-in-Command, Margaret "Legs" Sadovsky, the Foxfire comrades extract revenge and justice: freeing the dogs from Tyne's pet shop, embarrassing the pitiless teacher, Buttinger, and assaulting lecherous Uncle Wimpy.

Legs is a powerful, angry girl—clever, tough, fearless and neglected, driven to rebuff and exploit men in order to create a haven for her "sisters." She's the brains behind the gang's increasingly dangerous actions, successful until the final doomed play that blows the gang apart.

In her 23rd novel, Oates, the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of Black Water and Heat, creates a riveting tale of girls in control, girls who won't stay in their place, girls capable of cruelty but also of compassion. Once again Oates strikes chords of raw emotion in a literary masterpiece. (Dutton, $21)

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