While Amy Engel is not new to the writing scene, “The Roanoke Girls” is her debut novel for adults.
We’re introduced to Lana and her mother. A simple conversation seemingly innocent holds so much foreboding for the rest of the story. A month after Lana’s dream of Roanoke, her dream comes true riding the tail of her mother’s suicide. Lana’s mother, Camilla, left Roanoke while pregnant. Unfortunately Camilla’s years spent there molded her into an unloving, sad mother, distraught when she realized her daughter (Lana) looked exactly like the father.
A social worker brought in tells Lana that her grandparents at Roanoke want to take her in to live with them and her cousin Allegra. Packing up her life in New York, Lana moves to Kansas to be with family she’s never met. Her arrival is well received, ecstatic that she’s not the only Roanoke girl in the house anymore. Allegra and Lana’s appearances could fool someone into thinking they were sisters; dark hair with copper highlights, long legs, well developed chest, and the hereditary Roanoke eyes.
Although Lana has never been to Roanoke, there’s something about it that instantaneously feels like home and draws her in. Allegra points out what looks like a family tree, of all the women (Roanoke girls) who are (were) a part of the family. Like all families, tragedy doesn’t shy away. The Roanoke girls either go missing or pass away, there never seems to be a happy medium. The only long standing Roanoke girl is Gran.
While Lana only spent one summer living there, Allegra has spent a lifetime. And after Lana left for good (or so she thought), her granddad calls her back because her cousin is missing. Lana is the first Roanoke to ever return, but she would do anything to find her cousin- even if that means returning to the mystery that surrounds her family. With no clues, and the police investigation at a stand still , Lana does her best to find her cousin. While trying to run away from family tradition to save herself, Lana deserted the one person that truly needed saving.
When starting out, I highly suggest you pay attention to the chapter headings. Engel switches perspectives each chapter, going from the “then” to “now” while also switching character perspectives. Each story in it’s own is absolutely engaging, and continually piecing together the ever growing puzzle of the mystery of Roanoke.
Right from the prologue Engel puts her literary hooks into her readers. The characters draw you in, the story draws you in, but the abuse draws you deeper. It’s like watching a train wreck .You want to look away but you are unable to. I honestly have not been this disturbed by a book since I read Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones”. And yet although I was disturbed, disgusted even, I could not put this book down to save my life. This was another 24 hour read, and a book I am HIGHLY recommending, mainly so I can chat about it with people, yes I’m selfish, I know.
Of course, there is SO much I have left out of this review, mainly because I really do not want to ruin it for anyone. If you’ve been following my reviews, you know that I don’t like to read the details about a book before I dive into it, so I didn’t know ANYTHING about “The Roanoke Girls” when I dove head first into this book. Trust me, you’ll want to unravel this mystery on your own, and you will NOT be disappointed.
I earnestly hope that Amy Engel continues writing for adults. I enjoyed this book so much that I will be adding her young adult series (The Book of Ivy) to my TBR pile immediately.
I was provided a copy of “The Roanoke Girls” from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. That being said, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.