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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
"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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Lane grows up in New York City, raised by a mother that shows no sign of warmth or affection, a woman that seems to either cry or sleepwalk through most hours of most days. When she hangs herself, Lane bitterly wonders what took her so long. But then a surprise comes with the social worker assigned to her case. It seems there are grandparents in Kansas, who not only are willing to have Lane, but that actually want her.
Soon Lane finds herself being driven up the private drive to Roanoke, the family manse, a rambling, welcoming hodgepodge of a house, complete with a same-age cousin waving with manic joy from the front porch. Allegra is spoiled, and now Lane will have all the same luxuries. The ostensible farm on which they live is more of a gentleman’s farm, as it happens; the real money comes from oil. And so Lane, who has scraped for every scrap of clothing and food alongside her struggling mother for 16 years, suddenly has the whole world at her beck and call. Allegra takes her to their grandfather’s study and shows her where all the credit cards are kept, and she assures her this is not something they are sneaking or stealing; it is assumed that if they want something, they can buy it.
It seems almost too good to be true…and it is.
There is so much simmering just below the surface, unspoken but thick and almost tangible. Take, for example, the portraits of the Roanoke girls that have gone before them, whose photographs line a main hallway. The collection begins with Grandfather’s sisters, continues with their daughters, the mothers and aunts of Lane and Allegra. What has become of all of them? Allegra explains:
“Roanoke girls never last long around here…In the end, we either run or we die.”
Lane’s picture isn’t included among those in the hallway, and she isn’t sure she wants it there. And as time goes by and the contours of the family’s pathology become clearer, Lane decides it’s time to save herself, and she hits the road, covering her tracks to the best of her ability. She stays away until ten years later, when her phone rings. Her grandfather tells her that Allegra has vanished; they need Lane to “come home” to help the family search for her.
Lane’s interaction with her grandfather is mesmerizing. When he calls her with the news of Allegra’s disappearance, the first thing she asks is how he got her number. Yet once she is back in the Roanoke house, she recognizes that “…behind the secrets and the horrible truth, under the shame and anger that beat like a heart, there still lives a terrible kind of love.”
The fascinating, intimate narrative Engel weaves is a thing that can’t be taught. There’s no degree, no series of workshops that gives a voice such clear authority. She plays out the story’s thread in careful increments, and the bone-c hilling tone is heightened rather than lessened by the fact that we have a very good idea of exactly what happened to Allegra. I know whodunit halfway through the book, but it doesn’t matter. The author binds me to Lane’s story in a way that is completely undeniable, and I have to see this thing through with her. Toward the end of the book, instead of commenting to myself about aspects of the book or particularly compelling passages to quote, I’m engaging with the text itself. More than once my notebook simply says, “No.”
The reader should know that there are triggers all over the place. Those that are in a sensitive place may want to have someone else read the book first and tell you whether they recommend it to you. But for those that want a chiller of a mystery, and for those that care about women and the ways that society turns people into products for consumption, this is a must read. Or you could just read it because it’s brilliant, and no one else is writing anything like it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a story about family secrets that were much more disturbing than I had...Read more