Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Crown Publishing
First Published: March 7, 2017
First Line: "The first time I saw Roanoke was in a dream."
Book Description from GoodReads: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.
After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane's first Roanoke summer and 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.
My Rating: 4.5 stars
My Review: I wasn't sure that I would finish this book. I wasn't sure if I could.
This is a story about family secrets that were much more disturbing than I had initially expected. It focuses on a Dysfunctional (yes, that's a capital D) family which is steeped in horrific secrets that keep them tethered to one another.
The initial reveal of the big secret shocked me so much that I had to read the sentence a few times hoping that I was mistaken. I took time to digest this info, even putting the book down while I decided if I wanted to proceed. But by that time, Engel had drawn me into the mystery surrounding Allegra's disappearance and the back story of Lane and Allegra's summer at the Roanoke house as teens.
I was hooked ... yet apprehensive.
This book is a mystery but also a dissection of the dynamics of a highly dysfunctional, toxic family and the cult-like influence of its patriarch on its members. Readers, like myself, may feel like a rubbernecker at a tragic accident --- you're curious to see what's going on, but it's distressing to look and yet you can't seem to turn away. Welcome to the Roanoke family.
The topic addressed will be hard for many readers and like I said, I wasn't sure I could finish it myself. The subject matter made me uncomfortable, angry, sad, sickened ... that's a whole lot of emotions. It's a hard read and not a subject matter that I'd normally want to read. But Engel sensitively incorporates the dysfunction and secret into her plot without making it sensational but more of a explanation for why and how the Roanoke family developed.
Is it for everyone? No.
Is it well-written and a gutsy look into a toxic family? Definitely.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.