Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Date published: 7th March/21st September 2017
Available at: Amazon/Book Depository
“Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.
Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.
Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. “Come home,” he beckons. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.”
I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I think the plot was good but there were just so many elements that I didn’t enjoy.
First of all, I’ll start off by saying that this book should have so many trigger warnings. This book contains physical/emotional/verbal abuse, sexual assault, rape, incest, miscarriage, paedophilia and suicide. If I’ve missed any then I sincerely apologise, please let me know in the comments and I’ll amend my mistake(s) as soon as possible!
Okie dokie, first of all, I really really didn’t like the way sexual abuse and incest were handled within this book. It was integrated as an important part of the plot which I understand, but it was almost romanticised and glorified. The true horror of it was barely touched upon and it was just a looming, horrible presence throughout the book. I get why it’s there but for some reason, in this book I just couldn’t get past it.
Another element I really didn’t like is that the entire story was just driven by sex. Every other page contained a sexual scene or a conversation about sex and to be honest, it was just too much, especially for a book that was supposed to be classed as a ‘thriller’. Whether it was consensual or non-consensual, it was just always there and it really distracted from the plot and took away some of the severity of the plot.
Another thing that really aggravated me was how it jumped around so much. One chapter its 2004, then its 2014, then its the early nineties etc. etc. I get that it was done for context and perspectives but I think there was probably a better way of doing this. It took a long time for me to get to grips with who’s perspective it was in and which year; its a complex enough plot as it is, it was just made difficult by Engel’s writing style.
Next up: Characters. I don’t know what it was, I just couldn’t get a mental image of a single character in my hear in terms of what they looked like, their body language, facial expressions etc. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t enjoying the book or whether the descriptions just weren’t there. There wasn’t a character I liked either apart from maybe Cooper Sullivan, probably because he was kind of a side character and wasn’t really involved in the process. I could. not. stand. Allegra and Lane. They had absolutely no consideration for their actions and how their words would affect people and their lives. They would leave a trail of hurt and destruction and it was another reason I couldn’t really get into the book fully. It’s sometimes nice to have main characters who aren’t kind and considerate but in this book with such sensitive topics, I wasn’t a fan. In all honesty, Lane and Allegra were cruel and I didn’t enjoy reading about them; the only reason I kept on reading is because I wanted to find the outcome, I cared nothing for the characters or how they reacted, I just wanted a solid resolution.
I just.. ugh. Wasn’t a fan of this book. I think it had the potential to be a really great novel if it weren’t for how situations were handled.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it?