Book Review: Foxfire

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

Joyce Carol Oates

Plume

336 pages

FOXFIRE IS YOUR HEART.

It’s the 1950s in urban America when five girls make the decision to form a girl gang.  The climate of the time is such that the girls all feel vulnerable and solitary, so that forming a union gives them a sense of belonging and sisterhood.  Legs Sadovsky is the head of Foxfire, and she has led a lonely life, with a dead mother and alcoholic father.

In a sense, Legs is the most vulnerable of the girls, but she is also the most loyal.  At one point, Legs is locked up in a juvenile detention center, and with her gone, the other girls seem lost.  Once she is released, Legs once again takes up the helm, and even in the end when Foxfire threatens to implode, Legs is most concerned with protecting the other girls.

I often say that Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors, and I suppose she is, but her cannon is so huge and I have only read a small portion of what she has published, so I feel a bit disingenuous claiming her to be one of my favorites.  Not to mention that many of her books that I have read I have not liked.  Case in point–We Were the Mulvaneys and The Gravedigger’s Daughter.  So where does Foxfire fit on the spectrum?  To be honest, it falls straight in the middle.  It does not rank as one of my favorites; that honor goes to My Sister, My Love and Blonde. I do think Foxfire is a worthwhile read though and I was glad to have read another Oates book.  I really need to make an effort to read a few of her books a year.

Are you a fan of Oates? If so, what are your favorites/least favorites from her?

Other Reviews:

Reading Rants!

Sarah Reads Too Much

In Laurie’s Mind

I purchased this book, most likely from Half Price Books.

BBAW Day #4: Forgotten Treasure

Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

I’ve often said I love book blogging because it has opened my eyes to a lot of different books/authors/genres that I would otherwise not have been introduced to.  That said though, sometimes the book blogosphere can be very repetitive, with the same books being mentioned over and over.

One author that I wish I saw mentioned and reviewed more often is Joyce Carol Oates.  I love how different her books are and she’s been one of my favorite authors for the past few years.  Unfortunately, I am guilty of slighting her as well, as I have only read one book by her in the past year.

The Falls, Blonde and My Sister, My Love are all Oates books that I really enjoyed.

What Oates books have you enjoyed?

Book Review: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Joyce Carol Oates

Harper Perennial

624 pages

The Gravedigger’s Daughter is a lengthy saga about the life of Rebecca Schwart Tignor aka Hazel Jones.  Rebecca’s family has come to the US from Europe as Jewish refugees and Rebecca’s father, Jacob, has gotten a job as a caretaker in Milburn , New York .  The five person family (parents Jacob and Ann, brothers Herschel and Gus, and Rebecca) live in the stone caretaker’s cottage on site.  Anna begins to lose it mentally and Jacob becomes more and more abusive towards his family as the shame of his life in the US eats away at him.  Eventually tragedy strikes the family, which starts Rebecca on a rollercoaster of despair. 

She meets and marries a young man names Niles Tignor as a teenager and she moves away with him and bears a son, Niley.  Despite warning signs, Rebecca has a romantic notion about Niles for the first few years of their marriage, but Niles is also an abusive man and Rebecca is forced to flee from him one night with Niley.  The fear of being on the run is forever present to Rebecca.  She is forced to change hers and Niley’s names and she chooses Zach and Hazel Jones.  The latter name was chosen because Rebecca was mistakenly believed to be a woman named Hazel Jones, and she adopts the moniker without ever knowing who the real Hazel Jones is. 

Meanwhile, Zack has issues of his own.  He slowly developes a hatred for his mother over the loss of his father.   He also turns out to be a prodigy on the piano.  Much of the book revolves around Zack’s growth both as a person and as a pianist.  His anger became more and more present throughout the book and was discouraging.   He became this brooding, sullen, hateful person and I felt that while some of his anger towards his mother was deserved, he also held her responsible for circumstances that were beyond her control.

One thing I definitely did not appreciate about The Gravedigger’s Daughter was the epilogue.  I don’t think I am giving anything away at all by discussing the epilogue, so hopefully no one else feels differently. It is an epistolary format between Rebecca and her long lost cousin.  My grievance is that it has nothing to do with the book.  I felt that it added absolutely nothing.  Has anyone else read the book and, if so, do you agree?  It’s twenty-five years later and Hazel is now back to being Rebecca.  Why? How?  What did the intervening years hold?  I felt no connect with the actual text.  Instead the epilogue just seemed slapped on. 

I had a problem with the ending too.  Sometimes I get sick of people bemoaning ambiguous ending.  Generally, I have no problem when an author leaves things open-ended/.  In fact, I would prefer that rather than trying too hard to come up with the perfect ending because sometimes it just doesn’t work.  But I am telling you, the ending in this book was bizarre.  To me, it was like JCO just stopped in the middle of a chapter or even the middle of a scene.  I can’t make heads or tales out of what I should have gotten from.  Maybe that’s the point?  I don’t know—I finished it before bed last night and was frustrated to the core because of the ending AND the epilogue. 

I am a big JCO fan.  Her writing style is unique and refreshing, and  I am rarely disappointed by her books.  The one exception is We Were the Mulvaneys, which I struglled to get through in high school.  I was young at the time and my taste in literature was a lot less refined than it is now, so I plan on giving We Were another chance in the hopes that my maturity will have changed my viewpoint of the book.  Unfortunately, I feel like The Gravedigger’s Daughter let me down a bit.  It was just dry and not very engaging at all.  I hope it was just a small blip in my appreciation of JCO’s work. 

Other Reviews:

Passion for the Pages

Books Please

Ace and Hoser Blook

Sophisticated Dorkiness

I borrowed this book from my local library.

This book counts towards the Chunkster challenge.

Sunday Salon

Unfortunately this SS post will be short and sweet.  I am frantically typing as fiance is showering because as soon as he’s done, we need to go run errands and I am not even dressed yet!

This week I have been going back and forth between two lengthy tomes–Wolf Hall and The Gravedigger’s Daughter.  Both are around 600 pages and I am getting pretty far in both but I was not able to finish either of them this week.  However, I am usually very off put by books this long, so I am proud of myself for picking up both and forging through.  I have two hundred pages left in TGD so hopefully I can finish that one by tomorrow night.  WH will be slower going.

What I will read next, I am not entirely sure, but my wedding in New Orleans is coming up in two and a half weeks so I will probably start up on some NOLA based fiction.  I have quite a few books based on the city in my collection, so I will have to look through those.

I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

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