Book Review – The Roanoke Girls

September 15, 2018|Book Reviews-Fiction|0 comments

The Roanoke Girls is difficult to review. It’s well written and whilst I don’t really buy it as a mystery I do think it was well paced and exceedingly compelling. That said it really was too dark for me and it felt strangely lacking in the kind of resolution I was hoping for.  

Plot in a Nutshell

Just shy of her sixteenth birthday Lane Roanoke finds herself moving to Kansas to live with her grandparents and cousin Allegra following her mothers suicide. Eleven years later she reluctantly returns to the Roanoke farm when her grandfather calls to let her know Allegra is missing.


The Roanoke Girls is undoubtedly a powerful novel. Engel tells a darkly compelling tale. Her characters are not always easy to like but I found it impossible to not feel empathy for the two main Roanoke girls. Less easy to feel sympathy for were the other characters. The cold and distant grandmother, or Tommy the hapless police officer whose personal interests take precedence were tough to warm to.

The main setting of a rural town in Kansas with its oppressive heat, slow days and small town problems becomes another character and provided a sinister, gothic feel throughout.

Engel handles her myriad of difficult topics deftly and sensitively and yet I think makes an important statement about what happens when people turn away and choose to not take action against awful terrible things. 

So there was much I admired (I can’t say liked given the content). Untimely however I really struggled with the unending lack of optimism in the novel. I don’t need happy endings on everything but there was something a little heart breaking about Lane’s trajectory. Her mother is distant and depressed and there is little joy about the parts of her early life we get to see. Moving to start again in a large farm house with an extended family should bring peace but instead exposes her to risk and dark and dysfunctional family secrets. Her budding relationship outside of the home is with someone as damaged as her. She escapes and yet the part of the story set in a modern timeline shows that she has struggled to make a positive life for herself.

This darkness may have been all too real but it left me exceedingly sad.  Her happy ending did not seem that happy to me.

Buy The Roanoke Girls

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