The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

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Feels like: V.C. Andrews is alive and well, writing disturbing, gothic-victorian literature for a modern audience.

Sounds like: “Me and the Devil” by Adia Victoria Listen Here / 2018 HELLO YELLO REVIEWS Playlist

There’s a couple of really important things to know right off the bat with this book: if you’re triggered by incest, emotional manipulation, or suicide, steer clear. This is not the book for you. This isn’t a spoiler–the characters give it away in the first few chapters, so I’m not ruining anything. Which is an amazing testament to this novel–the incest isn’t the surprising twist, just another element of the gothic thriller that will keep your jaw dropping lower, lower, gone.

Needless to say, I loved this book. If I could equate a novel to the feeling you get when you’re browsing Facebook and come upon a really juicy piece of clickbait that keeps you stuck to your screen at work for way too long–this would be that novel.

Lane is the one Roanoke Girl that got away. After her anguished mother commits suicide, Lane gets sent to live with her grandparents on the Roanoke homestead in southern Kansas. Lane knows that Roanoke was the source of her mother’s sadness, but she can’t figure out why–here there’s a tenderness, a sense of belonging, she’d never felt back in New York. Her Grandfather is handsome, kind, caring. Her Grandmother is distant, but cordial. And her cousin Allegra, raised since birth by her grandparents, is full of light, joy, and fun.

Allegra and Lane become best friends over the course of a very illuminating summer, at the end of which leaves Lane desperately scrambling to leave the compound, running for her life and sanity.

The author, Amy Engel, supplies us with a character tree in the beginning of the book so we don’t get the sisters and relationships confused, and I used that thing for reference quite a bit. There are plenty of Roanoke girls and each one gets their very own confessional chapter. The book is written in a series of flashbacks, divided by “then” and “now” chapters. Usually these kinds of gimmicks annoy me, but Engel pairs each “now” section with a very pertinent “then” section, making each page-turn rewarding and linear.

In spite of its heavy of subject matter, The Roanoke Girls is a gratifying read. Even characters that read as stereotypes (the hot townie boy who fixes cars and gets in fights, the boy next door who becomes the cop leading the “missing girl” investigation, etc.) are enjoyable instead of cliche. Lane has my whole heart as a convincingly damaged woman, genuine in her barbed wire inability to give love, mean in a way I admire in an imperfect protagonist.

The Quintessential Quote:

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

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books for an honest review. 

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