The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

You know that wonderful feeling when what you thought was a cold isn’t really cold? Oh, but it’s allergies and the Southern California winds pick up on the day of your realization and you can’t breathe and everything is misery? Yeah, that feeling. Wonderful. But I did pick a book that has misery woven through almost every line, so I think it’s appropriate to review The Roanoke Girls today.


Title: The Roanoke Girls (276 pgs)

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: March 7, 2017


After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

This was one of those books that I grabbed on NetGalley because the cover made me think it was something different than it was. I mean, Roanoke? Come on, you know what I thought. But then the actual story ends up being so much better than what I even thought it could be about.

I mean, it is about disappearances, but we learn what happened to the Roanoke girls in this story.

It’s so difficult to talk about this story without giving anything away. Unlike most mysteries, the secret of the Roanoke girls is given away fairly early in the story, and the rest of the book is tainted by this secret. When Lane goes back to Kansas, the reader believes that she’s going to learn about Lane and Allegra, their friendship, and what happened to her. You know, you wait for the big secret to be revealed in the last pages and then you can go back and piece together the puzzle yourself during the second reading. But with the secret staring you in the face for the entire book, you suddenly start to doubt everything and everything. Could Allegra’s disappearance be pinned on Tommy, her ex-boyfriend turned cop who has a big secret of his own? Could it be Charlie, the strange loner farmhand that has been at Roanoke for years? Or maybe Sharon, the terrible cook, who has seemingly never liked any of the Roanoke girls? Or are we looking closer at home, like Gran or Granddad?

There was seriously a point where I was convinced that it was Lane’s old boyfriend, that he had kidnapped Allegra in hopes of Lane coming home to him. Yeah, I watch far too many soap operas.

I loved how this story was told from varying point of views, giving the reader the entire story from different perspectives. Each chapter goes from now to then, with a short chapter of each Roanoke girl wedged in there to help you understand why they all left. In its own way, it’s heartbreaking to read about these girls wanting a certain thing and the absolute jealousy that tears them apart. No Roanoke girl is exempt from this, not even Lane, the strongest of the girls.

Lane’s dynamic with every character in the book is electric. The love she wants, the love she gets, and the love she thinks she deserves contradicts each other constantly, and that’s because she grew up with an angry mother who – Lane thinks – didn’t know how to love her. When Lane comes to live with the Roanoke’s in Kansas, she receives the kind of love and attention from her family that she didn’t know possible. But she turns on Cooper, her summer boyfriend, and does what she can to hurt him, because she doesn’t understand the kind of love he’s trying to give her. I think Allegra is most like Lane’s mom, because one day she’s wrapped around Lane, and the next, she wants nothing to do with her cousin. This is a whole new world for Lane, so it’s no surprise that she connects with Allegra as quickly as she does.

This has been the hardest review to write, because I adored this book, but I’m trying SO HARD not to give away anything. I’m sorry for the vagueness, but really, pick up the book on Tuesday and read it. Then you’ll appreciate the difficult time I had today trying to pick my words so carefully. Once you finish the last page, find me somewhere and we can gush about it together!

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