The Roanoke Girls

Lane Roanoke is only 15 when her mother kills herself, and Lane must go live with relatives she never knew she had, in a small town in Kansas. Cousin Allegra is six months her junior, vibrant and mercurial, with the same dark hair and willowy frame as Lane; grandparents Lillian and Yates welcome her into their home as one of their own. There she sees a wall of pictures of the "Roanoke Girls," aunts and cousins and even Lane's own mother, preserved through time in aging photos hung in the big farmhouse. Allegra is quick to inform Lane about the dark side of the wall: all of the women are gone. "Roanoke girls never last long around here," she tells Lane. "In the end, we either run or we die."

This proves true for Lane, who stays only a short time at Roanoke before fleeing, leaving Allegra behind. Eleven years later, she's drawn back to the farm when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. From this strange and twisted set-up, The Roanoke Girls shifts backward and forward in time, alternating between tales of Lane's teenage summer in Roanoke and her re-entry into her family's insular and disturbing world as an adult. As the story of the Roanokes unfolds, their many, many secrets are slowly revealed.

Though Amy Engel's novel is dark, it is not overly bleak. Its sense of humanity elevates The Roanoke Girls beyond mere mystery, mere suspense, mere story of dysfunction, morphing into a compelling story of psychological suspense that is relentless. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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