Thanks to NetGalley and Crown for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Synopsis: 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 that 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.
Roanoke Girls is a dark and disturbing read which has left me feeling very conflicted. I usually try not to include spoilers in my reviews, but I’m going to reveal one here because if you decide to pick this up, I think you should be forewarned. The Roanoke family has been hiding a shameful secret for decades: the sexual abuse of several female members and this is the background that the main mystery is set against. It’s obvious who the perpetrator is early on in the book but the author writes about it in a subtle way, focusing more on why no one ever asked for outside help, and how this all relates to Allegra’s disappearance. For the most part I disliked all of the characters, yet at the same time I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the story. It enraged me that several characters, including Lane, had the chance to sound the alarm about what was happening, yet chose not to. I appreciated Lane’s determination to find Allegra, but questioned why her caring about her cousin only came eleven years after she fled the family homestead. Lane also comes across as being completely self-involved and uncaring about anyone except for herself. She frequently and deliberately lashes out at people who actually do care for her, which also makes it difficult to sympathize with her. The history of the abuse is revealed layer, by layer, and this in a horrible sort of way, is the best part of the book. The chapters alternate between the present day, with Lane’s desperate investigation of her cousin’s disappearance, and what happened eleven years ago during the one summer Lane spent with Allegra and her grandparents. Further fleshing out the story are occasional brief passages from other Roanoke girls, which makes everything even more personal and heartbreaking. Despite my issues with the characters, I was mesmerized from the very first page. Amy Engel is an incredible storyteller who knows exactly how to create a story that will resonate with readers. The Roanoke Girls is a disquieting look at what on the surface looks like a wealthy, successful all American family, yet underneath that veneer is a seething mass of abuse and deception. I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but if you do decide to try it, its not one that you’ll soon forget.