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The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
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The Roanoke Girls (2017)

by Amy Engel

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a copy of "The Roanoke Girls" by Amy Engel through the Early Reviewers program. Based on the blurb, I was anticipating something a little different. Thankfully, the book weighs in a 274 pages making it a low commitment read. I never fully connected with any of the characters, so when Allegra goes missing and Lane returns to the family compound, it became tedious to walk with Lane through her struggle to reconcile what being a "Roanoke" girl had been and where it could have gone for her had she not escaped four years earlier. The narrative flows between the past and the present and the reader can easily switch between the years. It's not until 213 at the discovery of Allegra's body does the story pace quicken which leaves 61 pages to wrap up the relationships between Lane and her grandparents. It's not a who-done it story. It's a story of a family secret and the damaged souls that kept that secret. The reader can be happy for Lane in the end, driving off into the sunset with Cooper, to start a new life but the ending became too neat a package and felt like a 30 minute tv show that needed to tie up the loose ends for the applause at the end of the show. "The Roanoke Girls" was an ok read but I happily was able to place it on my "finished" pile without having to give it a second thought. ( )
  Dawn1361 | Apr 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A dysfunctional family drama with a whodunnit mystery at its heart. The family's dark secret wasn't glossed over or romanticized and that might be why it didn't disturb me the way All the Ugly and Wonderful Things did. The lack of even one decent character - they were all 'weak and dirty' or 'a bitter, brutal disappointment' - made this a shamelessly twisted read that was hard to put down.

Thanks go to LibraryThing and Crown Publishing Group for the promotional copy this review was based on. ( )
  wandaly | Apr 17, 2017 |
“The Roanoke Girls” by Amy Engel
Review written by Diana Iozzia

My goodness. I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I just finished it about ten minutes, and I’m trying to gather my thoughts. I engulfed this book in about a span of 7 hours, four hours last night and three today. “The Roanoke Girls” is the best book I have read in about a year or so, and I truly think it’s worth every second you spend on it.
This book is about a woman named Lane who returns to her grandparents’ house eleven years after she spent a summer there, to help look for her missing cousin. Lane and her cousin, Allegra, were almost fused together, in dramatic, happy, and terrifying sync that summer long ago. This book is told through Lane’s young perspective at 15-16 years old, then her perspective at 27 years old.

This book is full with unexpected suspense, thrills, chills, and more. Many have said this is a modern day “Flowers in the Attic”. It is very similar with eerie grandparents and (LOTS of) uncomfortable incest. Be warned. There are very strong and possibly triggering scenes and moments. However, this book is not just about incest and a missing woman, this is about how Lane grew up and is reflected by the summer she spent. She revisits all of the haunts she once knew. I also found some similarities to the book “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn, which I enjoyed as well.
I do warn about the incest and other sexual moments. Other than that, there isn’t too much violence or profanity. However, this is an adult book, so I don’t know if it’s wise to think that a thriller/suspense/drama for adults would be PG. It’s sickeningly sweet and intriguing.

There isn’t much I can say about this book that I didn’t like. It’s interesting to see Lane, Allegra, and their friends and how they’ve changed as adults, in comparison to their childhood personalities. I think this would be a fantastic film or mini-series. There isn’t room for a sequel, which works fine by me. This book is very complete, concrete, and very well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

//I received an advance reader’s copy through BloggingForBooks.com// ( )
  dianaiozzia | Apr 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received an advance reader's edition of this book through librarything.com. This is not the usual, predictable story of a dysfunctional family. It is well written with smooth transitions from past to present. Interesting cast of characters, both good and bad, It is on the gritty side, with subject matter that may be a little too tough for readers with delicate sensibilities. All in all a very good read. ( )
  ewhatley | Apr 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is a disturbing and, hopefully for most, a thought-provoking read. It is a difficult story to read and it should be, I would be far more concerned about a reader who breezed through the book without any discomfort than about one who may have struggled with the events. So...

I am hesitant to get into much detail so as not to give away a lot. The main characters are well developed as literary characters though, as human beings, they are by and large stunted in their development. The degree to which the characters are shaped by their dysfunctional family is probably a larger part of the story than the mystery which sets the story in motion, namely the disappearance of Allegra.

I am going to address a couple ideas I have noticed in some reviews. My purpose is less to criticize those reviews or opinions as to offer a different perspective for anyone considering whether to read this book. First is the equation some people have that a protagonist they don't like equals a book that is bad. I think the idea of "liking" a character is important when reading and certainly influences how we interact and how committed we are with a novel. It seems that many reviewers offer the suggestion that they wouldn't like these characters (from the implied perspective of the reviewer being another character in the novel) so they don't care or like the book. I have to wonder, do they only read books about characters they would like in real life? I wouldn't say I necessarily liked Lane but I didn't dislike her either, especially in light of all the insight offered in the book. To dislike a character or person because of how they react to traumatic experiences says more about the person than the character. To stand above Lane or Allegra, or anyone else who has been through anything even remotely similar, and claim they should have done something different or done something sooner is amazingly arrogant and is completely ignorant of what happens to people when living under such conditions. This book gives a lot of insight and it is available to us as readers to try to empathize with, even if we don't fully understand, these characters and their actions. Yes, even when we mutter "no, don't do that." This may be a bit harsh but if all you get from this is that they somehow could have changed everything and they are simply unlikable, then you suffer from an underdeveloped sense of empathy for your fellow human beings.

Second, I saw a couple comments along the line of "where was family services?" Okay, even the best such departments can't be every where all the time. Rural settings are even less well covered. But even a good department will miss some cases. And, guess what? It is the case that gets overlooked that becomes the novel. if family services had been involved, the novel would not exist. That is the nature of fiction. A writer rarely picks the family or the situation where everything from extended family, community and government agencies all stepped up and resolved any situations before they became larger and potentially traumatic. Seriously!

Okay, my complaining aside, I was as disturbed as anyone (except those who might relate far too closely with the story) while reading this. But it made me think about what living in a bubble does. Whether the bubble is a privileged family living on the outskirts of a small town or a group of people living in a homogeneous community and creating villains of "others" from their imagination.

Like most reviewers I found Cooper the most "likeable" but also would have liked to have seen a little variation in how he responded to everything. I did feel at times that he, and most of the characters, were on autopilot when it came to their comments. Understandable from the Roanoke girls probably but I expected a bit more from the townies.

I would recommend this to readers of family dysfunction as well as mysteries where the mystery largely takes a back seat. There is a lot to reward a thinking reader, whether it is to glimpse an environment we hope to never see firsthand or learn to appreciate what might be happening behind the scenes with people we know who seem unlikable. Maybe, just maybe, they have their own battles and we could offer more than indifference and a cold shoulder.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers. ( )
  pomo58 | Apr 11, 2017 |
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Look at this tangle of thorns. - Vladimir Nabokov
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For Brian, you know why
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The first time I saw Roanoke was a dream.
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