Review: The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Crown, 2017.  Hardcover, 276 pages.Cover: Roanoke Girls

Written in the same vein as fellow Gothic novelists and Missourian authors, Engel has penned something similar to the works of Laura McHugh, Daniel Woodrell, and Gillian Flynn.

Featuring two timelines (a la, McHugh’s The Weight of Blood), the “Then” timeline tells the story of Lane Roanoke and he cousin Allegra, both who are being raised by their grandparents.  Lane, up until the start of the novel, had been living with her mother in New York City, but when her mother commits suicide, Lane is sent back to her mother’s family in Kansas.  There, she becomes acquainted with her cousin, Allegra, and together with their friends Tommy and Cooper, they are always up to something.  In the “Now” timeline, Lane receives a phone call from her grandfather while she is living in Los Angeles telling her that Allegra has gone missing.  Lane returns to their home, Roanoke, in Kansas to help with the search.  Alongside this, Lane must confront her past. Sporadically throughout the novel are chapters highlighting the other “Roanoke Girls” throughout the century and those previews help to shed light on the mystery.

This novel creeped me out.  If it wasn’t for the fact it was written by a Missouri author, I would have stopped reading but I wanted to give the author a chance.  I would spoil the plot by explaining why this is the case as it is central to the plot.  And it did not help that I accurately predicted this twist about 200 pages before it was revealed.  Even though that key twist was figured out early, there were other subtle twists I would not have predicted throughout.  Because of that, I almost wonder if that foreshadowing was done deliberately. The”Then” labeled timeline when Lane and Allegra were teenagers did feel very juvenile, possible do to Engels previous work as a young adult novelist. Adding to all of this, if you are like some of my patrons and dislike strong language, this novel is not for you; it has very frequent usage.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.  The novel was released earlier this month.


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