The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Contemporary
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. There is a darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.
Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago.
When I first read the synopsis for this novel, I knew I was going to enjoy reading it. It has everything I look for in a novel – the mystery of a missing girl, dark family secrets, and a young woman forced to confront her past. Amy Engel is a new author to me, but after reading this book, I will be picking up all of her other works.
This isn’t an easy book to read. It has some really shocking and disturbing subject matter that made me feel squeamish and sick to my stomach for a lot of the book. It’s extremely dark and twisted, but in my opinion, this book is as close to perfect as any book can get. It’s one of my new favourite novels and that’s not an honor I give out lightly.
There are a lot of shocks in this story, but the first one is dropped about 11% through the book. It’s done without any preamble or preparation, and I was taken completely by surprise even though I knew something big was coming. I just didn’t know what it would be and that it would be done so quickly. I liked that the reader knows what the big secret is right away, but it’s not boring since there are still layers that are peeled back as the story continues. The plot moved at a great pace and even though the novel is quiet, it has moments of drama that keep the reader transfixed.
Additionally, the atmosphere of this novel suits the novel so very well. The oppressive heat of the Kansas summer and the beauty and desolation of the Roanoke house combine to create a setting that mirrors the experiences of the characters. Just like the beauty of Roanoke hides something evil and twisted, every beautiful Roanoke girl was hiding something as well. It’s a marvelously written parallel and handled with such grace and eloquence by Amy Engel.
Lane was one of the best characters I’ve ever read. Even though she’s beautiful and sought after, her experiences have left her a mess. She’s self-destructive, selfish, cruel at times, and yet you can’t help but love her. I wanted the best for her and for Allegra. I wanted the best for all the Roanoke girls, and I loved all of them. The secondary characters were also so well-developed and interesting. I also really enjoyed the writing and the layout of the book because we learned about all the Roanoke girls. We understood who they were and we learned some of their secrets too. The one thing I was unsure about was the romantic subplot. I didn’t think I would like it, but I really ended up loving the way it developed. It was everything I wanted for Lane, and the ending was hopeful, which is the best I think you can ask when it comes to a book this tragic.
This book isn’t going to be for everyone. There are going to be people that are so bothered by the subject matter that they won’t be able to get past it to the beauty within. The darkness of the novel will mar everything else, but I really recommend people try and read past it. I want people to read down to the heart of this book, which is about a damaged protagonist trying to find redemption and a little hope. It’s a beautiful story, and one worth reading.
I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.