The Roanoke Girls
By Amy Engel
Penguin Random House
Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”
After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
This book got recommended to me by a good friend and I am glad I read it, but I must say it is very strange! Amy Engel’s writing is certainly beautiful the way she describes the heat and landscape of the small town and farm in Kansas was great and the whole novel kind of reminded me of The Girls by Emma Cline. So if you like a cult / slow paced thriller with good twists in that is written beautifully I can recommend this book to you.
The book is separated in two main time lines “Then” and “Now” both parts revolve around Lane. In the “Then” she is a 15 year old girl and her mother has just committed suicide. She goes into Foster care but her long lost family that her mother never mentioned, take her in. She moves to Roanoke farm and finds out she is a Roanoke Girl. She lives with her granddad, grandmother and cousin Allegra. Something doesn’t feel quite right with the family especially when Allegra announces that all Roanoke Girls either die or go missing…
11 years later you find out that Lane ran away from the Roanoke farm and lives in the city. However after all these years she has to return because Allegra is missing, and she thinks she will be the only one that will be able to find her.
As the books unfolds you find out why the Roanoke die or go missing, why Lane herself runs away from what seems like such a loving and caring family. This book did give me the creeps a bit as it deals with some pretty heavy stuff, I didn’t exactly feel uncomfortable reading it but it was pretty disturbing. I thought it was a very clever slow-paced thriller though full of family secrets and I think as a reader you do guess what was going on pretty early but the 15 year old Lane didn’t quite grasp what was happening, she just wanted a loving family as her mother was so horrid to her all her life.
What I really loved about this book was the way Amy Engel described things. Her way with words was just beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric. I will share a piece I highlighted whilst reading:
“Love that spread through her like poison, coiled like inky tentacles that slowly squeezed out all the light.”
This book was unsettling and dark but I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know the secret of the Roanoke Girls and I wanted to know where Allegra had gone, the girl who promised never to leave Roanoke, curiosity got the better of me on this one and not to mention, Amy Engel’s powerful writing capability. I enjoyed this book in a strange sort of way, if you can deal with slightly disturbing subject matter but enjoy a mystery / thriller then I recommend this novel to you. I will definitely be reading more of Amy Engel’s novels in the future.
Have you read the Roanoke Girls? Were you disturbed or did you finish the whole book?
Let me know. Katie x