Note: post may contain spoilers
I'll say this for The Roanoke Girls: it had me hooked. The day it arrived in the mail, I sat down to read it and didn't put it down again until I turned the last page a few hours later. That was a few days ago, and I'm still trying to sort out exactly how I felt about it.
Roanoke Girls tells the story of a family through the eyes of Lane, who was raised (I use the term loosely) in New York City by her mother, but moves back to her family home of Roanoke in Kansas after her mother commits suicide. Initially she welcomes the attentions and affections of her grandparents and cousin, Allegra, but she soon learns that things in her family aren't what they seem--and exactly why her mother had moved away to begin with. Roanoke girls, it turns out, always do one of two things: they run or they die.
So just like her mother, Lane ran. After her cousin goes missing, however, she returns to Roanoke to try to find out what happened and look for clues as to where Allegra has gone. As the book progresses, the reader finds out the stories of each of the girls in the Roanoke family, told from their perspectives, as well as exactly what--and who--Lane ran from years ago. The question is, will she be able to figure out what happened to Allegra in time to get away again?
It's not often that a book makes me actually uncomfortable--like I don't know how to feel. Amy Engel managed to tackle some pretty difficult subject matter without shying away from the emotional complexity inherent in the events, and I ranged from angry to disgusted to frustrated with half of the characters in the book in a matter of paragraphs (then felt mildly guilty for feeling that way). Emotionally it was a rollercoaster; mentally, though, it was a little more straightforward than some other mysteries I've read.
My only real issue is I felt like the Roanoke secrets were revealed a bit too soon--after that, it was hard to imagine anyone else being responsible for Allegra's disappearance (or feeling justified with an ending that didn't at least result in them being held responsible for everything that had happened previously--which was unlikely if someone else was behind her going missing). Even though there was a bit of a twist, I didn't find it all that surprising--but then, I tend to like my mystery books so fraught with red herrings that I end up down multiple rabbit trails thinking every character in the book is behind whatever misdeed has occurred. Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I'll definitely put on the bookshelf to read again.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.