The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
The Roanoke Girls. Here is a novel about a big mid-western family with a whole ‘lotta crazy. I have admittedly found it hard to stop reading psychological thrillers-I don’t enjoy violence or sex in them but the building tension and a surprise at the “ah-hah” moment has been very satisfying lately!
Lane Roanoke is living day-to-day in Los Angeles when she is contacted by her cousin Allegra, asking her to call her. Lane ignores the message, but when Allegra disappears, Lane takes a page from Nancy Drew and heads back to Kansas to her grandparents home to help look for her. And that is where any comparison to the wholesome, chaste, impeccably dressed sleuth ends. Journey back in time eleven years to the summer shortly after Lane’s mother committed suicide and we get to know Lane and Allegra as teenagers in what on the surface looks like an idyllic summer vacation of sun, swimming holes, shopping, friends, boys, freedom. Dig a little deeper and watch the dark family secrets unravel.
Interspersed between these chapters are the stories of the other Roanoke girls who all seem to coincidentally be dead. There is a family tree at the beginning of the book that proved surprisingly helpful. Is Allegra dead? Hiding? Playing mind games with Lane? Why did Lane abruptly leave her grandparents home eleven years ago? Why are so many of these Roanoke girls dead?
Engel is a good story-teller, and despite not thinking a whole lot of the characters in this book, I was very curious to figure out the mystery, and appreciated the psychological tension. She writes like this is real life; the only way to enjoy the book is to think fiction, fiction, fiction.