The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – a Review
“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.
As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.
Did you wake up screaming?…Was it a nightmare?”
“Did you wake up screaming? Was it a nightmare?”
I shook my head, confused and a little scared. “No.”
“Then it was nothing like that.”
Nightmares are the least of concerns; losing sleep a luxury in comparison to the knowledge, and experience, of surviving in the house Roanoke built. Amy Engel crafts a book equal parts compelling and disturbing. The Roanoke Girls details a family dynamic, a cycle of abuse without limit or censure, until one resolves to face the demons and expose the plague. This story is cringe-worthy, but so artfully written, you’ll feel its haunting beauty.
“My head knows this place is no good for me, but my stupid, traitorous heart sings HOME.“
Lane Roanoke is going back home to Kansas. Only, you’re not supposed to go home again, right? Or does Oz always welcome you back? Trust me when I say Roanoke is light years away from fantasy. When Lane’s cousin, Allegra, goes missing, Granddad summons Lane home. Ten years ago, Lane ran away from Roanoke, vowing to stay away from her cryptic family. But guilt, its “dirty fingers under [her] skin” have forced Lane to return. Only Allegra could revive Lane enough to revisit this hell. Allegra, the rebellious, reckless, spirited cousin whose mysterious disappearance reopens wounds and shines a light on silent, insidious corruption.
Don’t think me dramatic, but I don’t think I can say much more. Amy Engel parses out pivotal memories that stem from a malignant root, but the identity isn’t the most startling. To quote Ms. Engel, “it’s the WHY of it” that brings the story to full culmination. You will hear varying degrees of blame, tainted versions every one, but “life picks away at all of us, backs us into corners we never anticipated. Turns us into people we never thought we’d become.” A riveting story of innocence lost.
The Roanoke Girls were born into an underbelly of family taboo cloaked in dark seduction and heartbreaking complacency. Amy Engel weaves in light and hope in the most desperate of times. I told her The Roanoke Girls was memorable, but now I can honestly add recommendable.
Reviewed by Carmen
Copy provided by Publisher