Monday, 3 July 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel: Book Review

Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.

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. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is 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. “Come home,” he beckons. 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. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of 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.



The contents of this book had me in a whirlwind of captivation, despite the disturbing truth that comes with the Roanoke legacy. The one thing I loved most about The Roanoke Girls is that it pointed on something that is very real for some people and families and the lesson at the end doesn't sugar coat it. The author clearly did enough research to ensure that anyone reading this that might be able to relate won't feel like their experience was represented badly. I personally don't know what it is like since I've never gone through what the Roanoke girls did, but I can imagine that it would be almost exactly how it was portrayed in the book. Amy Engel stated that she had researched this horrible reality thoroughly to ensure her accurate portrayal of the events within her novel. I'm glad that authors like her have taken precaution and proceeded with absolute care when trying to present a novel that is not only fascinating, alluring, and filled with dark themes, but is also somewhat of a realistic setting which most people have sadly had to deal with in their own lives.

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

Lane Roanoke was the sole focus of this novel, the story being told mainly through her eyes - though many of the multiple POV's were from the other dead Roanoke girls, such as Lane's mother, Camilla, Camilla's sisters and her aunties before her. All in all, Amy Engel did the most amazing job at time-lapsing between when Lane went to live with her cousin, Allegra, after her mother died when she was sixteen, and when she came back after Allegra went missing eleven years later. Never once did I get confused as to who I was reading about or what was happening and I definitely enjoyed how the story played out even though there were some tear-jerking scenes that broke my heart.

“Sometimes it's a revelation, even to me, how much more comfortable I am with cruelty than with kindness.”

The dark scenes that plague this novel are intriguing but gruesome, much of it showing how the reality of the Roanoke's past have emotionally destroyed all of the girls. Lane and Allegra are now the remaining heirs of their grandfather and grandmother who have acted as guardians of Allegra after her mother ran away. The girls are known for their similarities in beauty but not in personality, however they both seem to grow closer thanks to the outcry of Allegra's need for attention and a sister who will have her back when there is no one else there for her. As Lane begins to realise the disturbing truth that hides behind the closed doors of the Roanoke mansion, her escape from the madness of her mother's deep depression seems to become more and more of a prison than a safe haven. When she returns to Osage Flats eleven years later, still harbouring the knowledge that she learnt all those years ago, things are strained with her family and the close bonds she developed with Allegra's friends, Tommy and Cooper. With the help of her first love, Cooper, she manages to find the safe haven she longed for and accepts the harsh reality that the Roanoke family will never be as innocent and desirable as what everyone else thinks. The message behind the Roanoke girls' growing madness made me realise how some people do struggle to accept the love they are given and feel that they deserve less than what they're offered when it comes to being happy. Lane goes through a number of gains and losses before she finds the answer to Allegra's disappearance and can start to heal from her past.

“You can't outrun what's inside of you. You can only acknowledge it, work around it, try and turn it into something better. I may not know exactly where I'm headed, but this time I'm choosing my own destiny.”

This book breaks from the typical themes that most books show and I loved that even though the reality of this story was pretty out of the ordinary and scarily real for some people, it committed to being tender to the touch, a great thriller, and overall a gripping read that you all should pick up. I gave The Roanoke Girls a 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Hachette NZ for the review copy!
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Are you suffering with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety? Here are some helpful links from BetterHelp that you can check out and find tips on how to live a happier life:

BetterHelp Advice - Anxiety
BetterHelp Advice - Depression
How To Deal with Depression: Tips, Techniques And Finding the Right Treatment

How Do I Find A Therapist Near Me?

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