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The Roanoke Girls: A Novel Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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“A gripping tale about the power and corrosiveness within families weighed down by the past…storytelling at its finest.”
– The Associated Press
“With more twists than a bag of pretzels, this compelling family saga may make you question what you think you know about your own relatives.”
"A page-turning thriller that will allow you to escape into another world…filled with family secrets and a legacy of death and disappearance for the infamous “Roanoke Girls” — a privileged Kansas matriarchy with more than its fair share of tragic drama.”
"A crime must-read to devour…The Roanoke Girls has nothing to do with Virginia but everything to do with missing girls, as the females in the Roanoke family, who live in a tiny town in rural Kansas not worth naming, are rich, beautiful, and generally short-lived…The farmhouse, which is 'equal parts horrifying and mesmerizing,' is a perfect setting for a gothic mystery full of small-town secrets, lies, and guilt.”
– Literary Hub
“The Roanoke Girls, the new suspense novel by Amy Engel, is one of those captivating stories which make you ask for more from this talented author…an exciting read from a talented new voice in adult suspense.”
– Mystery Tribune
"Engel drops a wicked twist in the first 35 pages—in the middle of a paragraph on the middle of the page—and lets it sit like a coiled snake...from that point on, The Roanoke Girls becomes a thrilling mystery and a satisfyingly gothic portrait of Middle America...a dark fable of trauma and acceptance about damaged people accepting their crooked parts and using them to move forward."
“Engel hits a homerun with this “gothic suspense novel” that tells the story of the Roanoke family, a prominent and very private Kansas family…a rollercoaster ride through a dark family history and the one devastating family secret.”
– Pulse Magazine
"Gripping…[a] gothic page-turner…with revelations readers won’t soon forget.”
– Publishers Weekly
“In her first foray into adult fiction, [Engel] creates a memorable cast of characters and a twisting, tangled plot that attracts readers from the first page…[an] atmospheric and unsettling tale of the secrets and bonds of family, set against the backdrop of small-town Kansas.”
— Library Journal
“A provocative thriller.”
— Telegraph UK
"A debt to Daphne du Maurier is evident throughout this remarkably assured adult debut...you are also reminded of the theatrical domestic sagas of Tennessee Williams."
– Sunday Times
"An emotionally captivating story."
"I was immediately drawn into The Roanoke Girls, a haunting and riveting look at one family's tangled legacy. You won't stop reading until you've unraveled the darkest of Roanoke's shocking secrets."
– Laura McHugh, award-winning author of The Weight of Blood
“This is a poised and haunting novel, whose enchanting prose belies its dark and intense subject matter. An evocative modern take on Southern Gothic, with a compelling twist which will remain with you long after the book’s last sentence.”
– L.S. Hilton, New York Times bestselling author of Maestra
“An emotionally compelling page turner, The Roanoke Girls takes you inside the dark world of a twisted family and one woman's fight to break free from the chains of her own history. This is family intrigue at its very best!”
– Wendy Walker, author of All Is Not Forgotten
About the Author
AMY ENGEL is the author of the young adult series The Book of Ivy. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. This is her first novel for adults.
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Eleven years later, Lane awakens to a phone call from her grandfather informing her of Allegra’s disappearance. Again, those haunting words from years before come to mind. Lane is determined to go back to Kansas and find out what her family has been sweeping under the rugs of Roanoke for generations.
I think I found The Roanoke Girls to be a tad more enjoyable than my friend, whom I buddy read this title with, did. There is something about stories with big, old houses and murky histories that appeals to my tastes. I love being slowly clued into what secrets lie within the walls of homes, and what generations of the inhabitants experienced there. In this case, the story features some taboo subject matter I wasn’t quite prepared for upon starting, but saw coming in the first few chapters. I know that word “taboo” has been thrown around a lot lately in our book community, unfortunately. The Roanoke Girls falls right into the center of this category, but the story’s condemnation of the dirty acts, makes me feel slightly like less of sicko for rating this book so high. Oftentimes dark and twisty novels completely turn me off, but I didn’t want to put this one down. I probably nagged my friend halfway crazy each time I asked her if she was ready to read the next few chapters, because I was so anxious to find out what was going to happen. I haven’t been so captivated by a mystery in a long time. I think Amy Engel presented the subject matter at hand in the most… I hate to say “tasteful”, but tasteful way possible. It never became too much to handle for me. However, as my friend and I were reading, I don’t know how many times we texted each other the word, “Gross!” Guys, there is a whole lot of gross. There are moments that will make your stomach churn and you’ll wonder why you decided to read this novel, but you’ll realize you won’t be able to pry it from your fingers.
The beauty is in Lane and the journey she goes through, alternating from past to present. Amy Engel wrote her to life in the most vivid way. I felt like I knew her – she could have been any small town girl struggling to make her way in the world. She was basically the same age as Sabrina and I, making her more relatable. Walking in her shoes felt uncomfortable and exciting. Sometimes I wanted to take them off because they were rubbing a nasty blister, but I couldn’t stop myself from walking a little farther.
I felt that Amy Engel gives a satisfying end to this rollercoaster of a novel. My favorite part of the entire story was Lane’s final message on the step of Roanoke. I was so proud of the growth she showed and of her defiance in the end. Overall, I was highly impressed with the writing style and story of The Roanoke Girls.
The Roanoke Girls is part mystery, part horrible coming of age tale. Lane Roanoke is a damaged limb on a diseased family tree, trying to forget the events of the summer after her mom died. When her cousin Allegra goes missing, Lane has to face the music.
Much like Tampa, this will be a polarizing book. Also, much like Tampa, it's compulsively readable, a trainwreck on the page. The best villains aren't the scene-chewing maniacs. They're the ones convinced what they're doing is right. The Roanoke Girls shares that with Tampa as well.
The writing style reminds me of Megan Abbott, and the subject matter as well. The story is told in two threads: the summer after Lane's mother's death and her return to Kansas to find out what happened to Allegra. In both of them, Lane turns over rocks to see the horrors lurking underneath, horrors she's tied to by blood and more.
The way Lane handles relationships keeps the story going even when nothing much is happening. She's damaged by her past relationships and can't help but wreck her current ones. She's a sympathetic figure, even when she's being a bitch.
The mystery wasn't all that complex but it was fun seeing Lane connect the dots. Like I said, the book was really hard to put down. I read it in two long sittings.
I was tempted to give it five stars but little things about it bugged me. Do women talk about breasts so much? Also, I'm pretty sure it's impossible to shoot a hole in a metal sign with a BB gun. And I wish certain parties would have suffered much worse fates. Other than that, I can't think of anything to bitch about. I loved the small town setting, the mystery, pretty much the whole thing.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
The novel's protagonist is Lane, a young woman who has returned to the familial estate, Roanoke, she fled from as a teen in the middle of nowhere Kansas to help search for her missing "cousin" Allegra. Lane's grandparents still reign supreme at Roanoke and through chapters that jump around in time and from different viewpoints we quickly learn that this home is not a good place for young girls to grow up. Multiple generations of girls have suffered the repercussions of living (not just the physical but more important the psychological) here. While the mystery of what happened to Allegra is compelling, what keeps the pages turning are the revelations of the scope of the abuse.
For those who inherently shy away of graphic sex or violence, rest assured there is none here. Instead the author chooses to focus on the psychological damage that results. It's a well told story and if you're looking for a read to take on that upcoming long flight, this is it.
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