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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

An unusual, but effective take on the Gothic novel,  The Roanoke Girls is set in Kansas--on the flat plains with acres of wheat and soybeans and summer sun and heat-- hardly the usual Gothic setting.  

Except for the house; except for the mysterious, twisted plot.  Even those elements are handled in a contemporary style that is appropriate to the flat plains of Kansas as opposed to ancient European ruins surrounded by dark woods.  There are no moors, no treacherous cliffs, no supernatural elements, but there are secrets.

Plenty of them, as Lane Roanoke discovers when she leaves New York to live with her grandparents after her mother's suicide. She is definitely not in New York anymore, not that she wants to click her heels and return.

That summer, her vibrant, irrepressible cousin Allegra is 15 and Lane turns 16.  Lane learns to feed and care for the farm animals, learns to drive her grandfather's truck, and has her first real experience with boys.  And she finds out a little about her family's history--so many girls who left Roanoke, like her own mother--or who died, like Allegra's mother.  Allegra tells Lane that she will never leave Roanoke.

The summer has some dark turnings, however, and Lane leaves.  She tries to avoid even thinking about that summer, until eleven years later, when she receives a text and a phone call from Allegra.  Neither of which she answers.

A call from her grandfather to tell her that Allegra is missing brings her back to Kansas. Lane returns, hoping to find her cousin, not expecting to stay. The longer Allegra remains missing, however, the more determined Lane becomes to discover what happened, where she is, why she finally left.

Tangled, twisted, the story and the history.  Lane, caught between wanting to unravel both past and present and to deny both, struggles with what she knows and what she suspects. The plot moves back and forth between the present and that long ago summer.

The Roanoke Girls is a dark and disturbing tale told in a way that contains both intensity and detachment.  "Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly."
    
Originally, the title had much to do with my request for the book.  How many thousands of people have a fascination with Roanoke, VA, the colony that disappeared without a trace sometime between 1587 and 1590?  There are several possible connections, but the most tangible is the carving.

I can't say I liked it, but I did want to know what happened.

Read in August, 2016; blog review scheduled for Feb. 20, 2017.

NetGalley/Crown Publishing

Psychological/Suspense.  March 7, 2017.  Print length:  288 pages.

11 comments:

  1. I've got a copy of this one and intend to read it soon. Maybe next or the one after that. Am seeing a bit of mixed reactions, but if it's Gothic, I must try it. And the Roanoke connection caught my eye as well.

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    1. It is a strange inversion of Gothic.

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  2. Hmm, I'm not sure about this one. I too, like the title and what it implies even though this is set in Kansas. I do see how the deserted, wind-swept flat plains there could make for a "gothic-style" tale. I think I'll read it, but wait until I see it in the library, thanks!

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    1. A twisted tale, not particularly likable, in content or characters.

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  3. I accepted this one for review for many of the reasons you describe but I really, really disliked it. It's not poorly written at all other than the fact that I found it completely unbelievable to the point that I struggled to finish it. Probably the worst reading experience of a non-abadoned book I've had in pretty near a year.

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    1. Don't hold back, Sam! :) Unpleasant people and disturbing situation. The title pulled me in, though.

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  4. The title would have made me pick up this book, too. I've long been fascinated by all things Roanoke. :)

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    1. The family name and the carvings are about all the connection with the original Roanoke, but the word still has power. Creepy.

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  5. Couldn't resist a gothic. Plus, the setting is interesting. Will see if the library has a copy.

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  6. Hmm. Sam's comment has me a bit fearful of this one. Haha. It sounds different, with the twist on the usual Gothic form. You have me curious, but hesitant.

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  7. Like you what first attracted me to this book was the title. I remember being so interested in school when we learned about Roanoke, VA. Definitely interested in this one.

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