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The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


Disclaimer: I read this book as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks go to them, to Hodder & Stoughton and to the author for this opportunity. The opinions stated in this review are my own.

"Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die".


There is a creeping dread woven into this book. The fate of the Roanoke girls is something that is there in the background at first but then the secret is given voice quite early in the book. The insidiousness of the full truth, however, takes the whole of the text to unfold. Lane Roanoke grew up far away from the house of her grandparents, taken off to New York by her mother. At sixteen, following her mother's suicide, she found herself back there for a summer. This intertwines with Lane returning many years later, alarmed by the disappearance of her cousin, Allegra.


The subject matter Engel writes about is uncomfortable reading and this book, at times, walks the line of sensationalism. It does spend some of the time exploring some issues surrounding the subject matter, such as complicity, trauma and guilt. By flipping between Lane's experiences as a teenager and an adult we see her innocence and her guilt in turn. Lane serves as the eyes through whom the story is told which means there is an element of caricature or mystery to the other figures in the book. This is actually beneficial as she needs to be a narrator who cannot see clearly. I found the short sections told from the perspective of the other Roanoke girls very interesting for a change of pace and a chance to see them become more than the stories Allegra tells. The plot for has some wonderful turns to enjoy, although I found the sections of the language a little bit inelegant at times. The short section with the physical description of both Lane and Allegra was particularly jarring. 


'The Roakoke Girls' is a good dramatic thriller, I absolutely had to keep reading, to reach the conclusion. It covers uncomfortable ground and, through Lane, is an interesting exploration of how hurt and trauma can play out.  

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