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.
Simply put, The Roanoke Girls gets a good ol-fashioned NOPE from me. I wish that could be it; I wish that could be the beginning and the end of my book review but it’s not because this book has caused me to feel so much rage while reading that it has to come out. So, here we go (warning: spoilers discussed below).
This book is terrible. The Roanoke Girls desperately wants to be something more than it is and it feels like Engel wants to build a reputation as a dark gritty author like Gillian Flynn but it fails. The entire plot of this book is sex, incest, sex, incest, sex, oh, and more sex. Of course, there is plenty of alcoholism, self-hatred, and mental anguish mixed in but the general tone of the book is that incest and sex cause mental anguish in victimized women who then either turn to sex as a cure, alcoholism, or suicide.
So, here are a few of my thoughts about that:
1 – I’m so sick of sexual abuse being used as the motivation behind women’s actions in books. WE ARE MOTIVATED BY MORE THAN THAT #thankyouverymuch. It’s lazy writing and it’s pathetically presented in The Roanoke Girls. Not to mention, literally everyone turns a blind eye to what’s going on? Family members? Hired help? Townsfolk. Yep, move right along. Nothing to see here. Just granddad gettin’ it on with every female in the family – his daughters, granddaughters, and occasionally his wife.
2 – Women combat trauma by doing more than running away, becoming alcoholics, and destroying their lives. When did this become such a common literary trope? It gets all the eye rolls from me. Literally, there are chapters in The Roanoke Girls dedicated entirely to brief descriptions of how a woman just cannot handle being rejected and replaced by her abuser so she throws herself into suicide because that’ll show him. There’s not a strong woman in the book, not even Lane. I know other reviews disagree with me but, again, NOPE.
3 – It can’t just be sexual abuse…no…it has to be incestuous sexual abuse! Over the course of 3 generations. Literally…the same dude abusing all of the women in his family, including his own daughters and grand-daughters, yet no one says a thing. Have we reached a point where sexual abuse in a book is so common that authors feel the need to push the envelope even further to earn head pats and fame for being the one willing to go there.
4 – Oh, and of course this incestuously abusive dude has to be depicted as THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO WOMEN because the women are basically throwing themselves at him, practically pleading to be manipulated and abused, then kill themselves or run away when he moves on to someone else. PLEASE! That’s just disgusting. If I had to read one more time about how handsome granddad is or what a soothing voice he had, I was going to take this book to the backyard and burn it. Can we not romanticize sexual predators, please?
Oh, yeah, and there’s a cousin missing in all of this. Allegra (the cousin) disappeared so Lane (the main character) gets a call from dear old granddad saying she needs to come home. Lane fled to California to escape the family but yup, she’s going to come home to try to find her cousin even though it means she’s going to move right back into the house where decades of sexual abuse have taken place. The police are on the case but of course they are too inept to solve the case. It has to be Lane who comes back to this horrific place of sex and abuse to solve the mystery only she finds herself hooking up with an old boyfriend because, sex.
I read to the end and frankly, I’m just glad it’s over. The Roanoke Girls was an epic waste of reading time and, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve the praise it’s been receiving from others. It’s try-hard and pathetic. There are way better books out there more deserving of your time.
Have you read The Roanoke Girls? What did you think of it? Tweet me @ashleyfromhp or leave your thoughts below.