The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – Book Review

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – Book Review

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.

“One summer is enough. Hell, sometimes one day is all it takes to change your life.” 


I should start off by saying that this is not a book that I would normally read, nor pick up from the library. Really the only reason I started reading this book was because it was my book club’s monthly pick, a brand new book club that I joined here in Norfolk, Virginia. Usually for books that I wouldn’t normally pick, I wouldn’t even pick it up. But here I go, trying something new in a place I’m not used to, so yay me! Oh, and I don’t regret finishing this book at all, but trust me when I say it was not a happy book whatsoever.


I don’t know if this counts as “cheating” but I got through this book by listening to the audiobook. Honestly, I feel like if I read it the normal way, I probably wouldn’t have felt the same emotions that I did while listening to it every time I went for a drive. I’m not sure if it was necessarily a good thing listening to this book before and after work, or even heading off to job interviews, since the subject of this book is anything but inspiring or positive, but it worked. I couldn’t get enough of it, and all I wanted to do was figure out what the heck was going to happen next.

This book was dirty. It was grimy. It was terrible in the sense that nothing good came out of this book. Nothing good happened to the characters, and the characters themselves weren’t people you really wanted to root for.

There is something extremely special about all of the Roanoke Girls, but being special in that way is not a good thing. Not by a long shot. Amy Engel hints at it throughout the entire book, with Lane’s story weaving between the past and the present almost seamlessly. Her past story is about her first time at Roanoke, that summer she was sent there after she lost her mother, back when she was 15 years old and thought she was completely alone. Her present, when she finally returns back to Roanoke after eleven years, to find out what happened to her cousin Allegra. It’s interesting to see how the events of the past end up tying into the present.

Is Lane a good person? Is Allegra a good person? Are any of the Roanoke girls “good”? Is anyone considered completely “good”?

I believe the answer is “no” for all of those questions, but the answer can also be “it depends”. Sure, they all have elements of good in them, but they are also cursed with something terrible, something that makes them both irresistible and hauntingly doomed. Dramatic, right? Well that’s how this book was, in such a raw and unapologetic type of way that made me say, “Well, damn.”

Not only do you get to hear from Lane, but there are some moments in between her story that you catch a glimpse into the minds of the other Roanoke girls. It’s so brief, and you may not get a full picture out of their little moments, but it may help explain what happened to them, whether they died or they just disappeared.

If it really was just a disappearance.

This is a book that you have to read to appreciate it. It’s not the kind of book that you want spoiled to you, because it will lose its desired effect. It’s a mystery after all, but I will say that if you are triggered by sexual abuse, suicide, or even drug abuse, I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

Rated: 4/5 


One thought on “The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – Book Review

  1. I am in full agreement with you. This book was nothing but grimy and just disgusting. Even the main character that you naturally expect to be good is also riddled with thoughts that are a wreck to say the least. The “why not me?” Part from the main character drove me a little insane at that point because I expected a full clean heart from her and I didn’t get that from any character at all. The reason why I give it four stars is because it is undeniably a page turner…and I don’t regret reading it because truthfully the authors job is to keep you engaged and not to get you to love every character.Total and full agreement with your review!!!!

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