The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Please note: I received an ARC of this book in for my honest review and participation in the TLC Book Tour.
I read and enjoyed the Book of Ivy by Amy Engel, and when I found out she was penning an adult mystery I had to get my hands on it. The Roanoke Girls is the story of a missing woman, an insanely dysfunctional family, a small town, and a woman returning home to look for her missing cousin.
It had me at “missing woman” and “dysfunctional family.”
About 20 pages in—I swear, it’s not really a spoiler—you plunge into the depths of this family’s dysfunction. The main character Lane left Roanoke when she was a teenager because she found something out.
What was it? Incest. Lots and lots of incest. This book is completely riddled with it, so if that bothers you, definitely don’t pick this one up.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of this book. On the one hand, I read it pretty quickly, wanting to know how it would end and what would be revealed. On the other hand, I found it unnecessarily sordid and I was just grossed out most of the time.
The main character, Lane, is not the most likable of people. She is understandably messed up. I mean, her mother killed herself, and then she moved to the horror show that is Roanoke. She only spent one summer there, but it was enough to leave her marked for the rest of her life.
I found Lane’s character and that of her cousin Allegra quite fascinating. They have so many layers. It was quite interesting to see how they dealt with what happened to them, and how bits of their characters are revealed throughout the story.
For the most part, I found the main characters complex, flawed, and intriguing. But I found the secondary characters a little flat, a little stereotypical, a little uneven.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I felt about this book. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I wish the whole incest thing was a big twisty reveal and not present throughout the whole book. It was just too sordid for me. I guess I felt like I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, and then wished I had known so I could have not gotten myself into it. I wish I could see past that and tell you what I thought of the rest of the book but I just can’t.
I love stories about messed up people and families and the whole prodigal son/daughter thing. I love eerie, personal mysteries that bring broken families back together just to break them again. But I didn’t love the direction this story took. I was uncomfortable the whole time.
Maybe that was the intention of the book? If so, it just wasn’t for me. That being said, if you like really dark stories that use that darkness as a catalyst for character exploration, you might enjoy this book. It is well written, and, like I said, the main characters were really interesting.
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