Jane was the first to run. Sophia and Penelope died. Sisters Eleanor and Camilla ran, and the third sister, Emmeline, died. Lane ran from Roanoke after one summer. Allegra disappeared, and now Lane is the only Roanoke girl left who can return to the Roanoke house and help her.
After fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide, she is sent from New York to live with her grandparents and cousin, Allegra, at their farmhouse in rural Kansas. Lane has dreamt of the Roanoke house for years, despite her mother fleeing from the home whilst pregnant with Lane and warning her that it was a place of nightmares – for Roanoke girls either run, or they die. When Lane uncovers the truth, she becomes one of the girls to run.
Ten years after Lane’s long summer at Roanoke, her estranged family track her down with news: Allegra, the one member of the family who Lane truly cared about, has gone missing. Lane feels obligated to return to the Roanoke house to search for her cousin – but will the darkness of Roanoke allow her to leave a second time?
(Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for sending me an eARC of The Roanoke Girls.)
Thrillers definitely aren’t my go-to genre. To be honest, I just scare too easily, so I tend to avoid most things that I know are almost guaranteed to have me curled up in a ball on the sofa every time I’m alone in my flat, unwilling to move in case a murderer crept through a window whilst I wasn’t looking. However, every now and then, I find a thriller with a plot that I just cannot resist. This started, of course, with Queen Gillian Flynn, whose complete works I grew to love after giving Gone Girl a chance. Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, similarly, unnerved me but kept me in it’s grasp. When I read the summary of The Roanoke Girls, I knew; this will be another one of those books that will almost definitely scare or unsettle me in some way, but that I’ll almost definitely love. As I guessed, I was right – I actually read this book in just one sitting.
I found The Roanoke Girls to be very reminiscent of Sharp Objects – the deep-hidden family secrets, the mystery in a small town of a Southern US state, etc. – and as this was my favourite Gillian Flynn book, I definitely wasn’t complaining. I immediately liked Lane and found that she was definitely a main character who I could easily read about for a long time, and the switches between her present life and her life ten years ago, when she was living in Roanoke, helped to build her as a character really well. I can’t fault any of the secondary characters, either – I just wish I’d gotten to know Allegra a bit better, although her elusiveness did add to the overall mystery of the plot.
The older Roanoke girls – Lane’s mother, aunts and great-aunts – all got small chapters about themselves, expanding upon the dark secret that the Roanoke family hides within itself. I thought that this little touch was such a good way to develop the plot and show how each of the girls were affected.
So, the secret of the Roanoke girls: I won’t say what it is, but it is revealed very early on into the plot. I didn’t have a problem with this, as it helped to expand what each of the girls have been through because of this family secret and the twisted way in which they had all accepted it at some point in their lives, rather than it being a big shock at the end of the book. Really, the mystery of the book as a whole was what happened to Allegra in the present day and what led to her disappearance, rather than finding out what the secret itself was. It is a very dark, unsettling secret, which some readers may not be comfortable reading about, so I’d just recommend being aware of this going into this book.
Honestly, my only problem with this book is that I wanted more. I wanted it to be longer so I could learn more about each of the characters, so I could continue to follow the mysteries of what happened at Roanoke house, so I could know more of Lane’s backstory and of what she was going to do next. I read that this is Amy Engel’s first adult novel, and I honestly cannot wait to read her next one if she writes more.