Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: March 7, 2017
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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."
Lane Roanoke's troubled mother committed suicide when she was just a teenager and in turn was sent to her grandparent's spacious Kansas farm home. Lane lived there with her cousin, Allegra, as well. You see Roanoke girls don't stay. They either die or run away and that is the case with Lane and Allegra's mothers. Thanks to Allegra, she is brought up to speed on the Roanoke family history. Thing shouldn't be too bad here, right? The Roanokes are filthy rich and the patriarch, Yates Roanoke, her grandfather, cares for the girls fiercely. But Lane is wrong. Things are bad here and the Roanokes are harboring very, very dark secrets. Many years later, Lane's grandfather calls her up as Lane has moved very far away from them and asks her to return "home" as Allegra has gone missing. Lane feels like she has to since Allegra contacted her before she went missing, but Lane never responded. Feeling guilty, she comes back "home" to try to figure out where Allegra went and what happened to her, but her return opens up a new can of worms. Plus, there's the ex-boyfriend that Lane originally left on bad terms. Eventually she will need to confront all of her demons as well as find out what happened to Allegra. But this won't happen until she unearths some upsetting truths about her family. Amy Engel's dark tale, The Roanoke Girls, isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's pretty disturbing and deals with a taboo subject, but at the same time, it is compulsively readable.
I wish I could tell you that I liked the characters in The Roanoke Girls, but that's not the case. Lane, along with everyone else in the story, is pretty despicable. I could say that Lane acts the way she does because of her upbringing, but I really don't want to make excuses for her. She is troubled and uses sex and alcohol to deal with her issues. It doesn't help that her family is a hot mess.
Allegra is also desperate for attention and acceptance in The Roanoke Girls. Tommy, a decent guy, really loves her, but she self-sabotages every good thing in her life. She has this weird attachment to her family and declares that she will never leave town.
That is why when Allegra shows up missing, Lane knows something horrible must have happened as she knows Allegra would never willingly leave. The Roanoke Girls has a mystery embedded in it (finding Allegra), but to be honest, I wasn't overly invested in this part of the story, because the other dark parts definitely took it over.
So, the taboo stuff..... I don't want to give it away, but some people may be really disgusted by this. I know I was, but I have to give it to Engel. Her writing was so absorbing and compelling that I couldn't put The Roanoke Girls down despite my feelings. I wish I could explain this better, but I can't without sharing too many spoilers. Reading this book was very similar to watching a car wreck. I knew that things weren't good. I knew that it was a disaster, but I couldn't.stop.looking. Every character is completely dysfunctional and all anti-heroes...seriously there isn't one normal or redeeming character. I think, ultimately, this is what mesmerized me about the book.
So, if you like dark, atmospheric reads filled with family secrets, give The Roanoke Girls a try. But I warn you-- all the characters are extremely troubled. However, it will leave you thinking about it long after you finish the book. It's definitely one of the most haunting books I've read in awhile.
Thanks to Crown, I have an extra ARC to give to one lucky US reader. Please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is March 15, 2017. Good luck!
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