Billed as creepy, The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel grossed me out. In spite of this reaction, I thought it was well-written and reflected a part of our culture the Christian world doesn’t always address (especially in their fiction).
This novel helps us understand what’s wrong with the Roanoke family and why the girls in the family keep disappearing or killing themselves by skillful manipulation of the chapters. The book takes us from now to then and to the different girls in the family history. The family lives in a small town in Kansas and it is as broken and dysfunctional as the Roanoke family. However, the Roanoke family have their own special brand of dysfunctional.
You discover this in the first few pages. Grandpa loves under age girls that are related to him. He’s an incestious pediphile. The book shows us how the girls and Laney (the main character) has bought into his kind of “love.” The book has many twists and turns, showing us how Laney and the other girls really had nowhere to go or any kind of help to escape the nightmare of the Roanoke family.
Laney’s own fatalistic point of view that she can’t escape her family history, succombing to repeating the cycle of her past, should bother you. We know our hope is in Christ and second chances can come by making different choices. So, why should a Christian read this book?
First, it’s a fascintating book, truly getting mysterious as Laney is the only one concerned with her cousin/sister’s disappearance. Allegra leaves clues. Other plot twists begin to happen including an ex-boyfriend who has changed. We find out the psychological trauma Laney is suffering from and how it affects her other relationships.
Second, while this book is peppered liberally with swear words, this is the language of the culture and world we live in. White washing reality is not the answer to raising intentional adults to work in an environment that is troubling to say the least.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel was well-written with a twist you can’t see coming at the end. The end is a happy ending in the language of our world, but as a Christian, I wondered if they got married or were shacking up with each other?
Rating: 4 Stars
*Book given by publisher to review