-Spoilers for the first 2 chapters of the book-
In a way all the signs were there, we joined Lane returning to a small Kansas town to find her cousin Allegra who has disappeared. We know that she had some sort of tumultuous summer living with her grandparents ten years ago.
It all starts off simply enough, Lane is facing her past after running away but we don’t know exactly why until Lane asks her grandfather if he’s still ‘fucking her.’
The Roanoke Girls starts with a sparse family tree and a quote from Lolita so it’s not like it was hidden but the incest but this did genuinely shock me and the casual attitude the book and the characters treated this issue did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I was expecting some sort of sordid family secret but the banality factor of it irked me a bit.
By revealing the Roanoke family secret so quickly was an interesting decision, as we shift between ‘now’ and ‘then’ we know more than the poor innocent Lane who’s come to live with her family after the death of her mother. Tension builds with the family secret being unpeeled layers as the book goes on.
Along with the family tensions we see the before and after of teenage relationships with Cooper and Tommy and how they are both ‘now’ and ‘then.’
In a way The Roanoke Girls is a coming of age novel and a story about when you don’t quite grow up.
At 240 pages The Roanoke Girls gripped me from the beginning to the end but after the initial reveal it didn’t shock me. If you’re interested in family dramas and stories about very damaged women then this is definitely the book for you…