The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is one of those stories that is haunting in the fact that it lingers in the back of your mind for a long, long time. Engel explores the darkness that hides in every family and what it means to love and be loved. To be placed under a spell that death seems like the sweetest escape.
Lane Roanoke's life changes forever after her mother commits suicide and she is sent to live with her grandparents in their vast Roanoke estate in rural Kansas. There she meets her cousin Allegra and the family secret that seems to be the cause for the premature deaths of all the women in their family. Like Lane, Allegra is an orphan too who's mother's death sentenced her to a life of living in hell's paradise.
We're told very early on what the Roanoke secret is but Engel helps us to understand why such horrible secrets tear a family apart or hold them closer together. After leaving Roanoke eleven years earlier, Lane returns to the place she loves and loathes equally.
Lane narrates the story as she tries to uncover the truth behind her missing cousin's story. It's obvious that the guilt of having left her behind ways heavily on her yet, Lane is a mess of sorts herself. It doesn't help that being back home in Roanoke brings back every bittersweet memory she's ever had and face to face with the only man she may have loved besides her Grandfather.
The Roanoke Girls was hard to put down. When I was forced to part ways for that shitty thing called life, I couldn't wait to get back into the shittiness that was the life of the Roanoke girls. The novel goes back and forth between the summer Lane lived at the Roanoke estate and hre return as she pieces together the mystery of Allegra's disappearance. Engel also introduces the women who came before.
I can't say there's any one character I didn't suspect of being the person whodunnit. Nor can I say with any certainty this story has any heroes. That may be why it's so good. Everyone has a secret and as their secrets unfurl I'm hardpressed to find anyone I think has any redeeming qualities.
I'll end my review there since I don't want to give too much away. I can't understand how anyone can love anyone the way the Roanoke women did enough to endure the reality of their lives. Amy Engel has produced a worthwhile read exploring family, love, obsession, and redemption. ****
Copy provided by Crown Publishing via Netgalley