Monday, December 26, 2016

Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (continued)

This dark novel alternates between "then" and "now." The chapters called "then" deal with Laney's sixteenth summer. A New Yorker who recently lost her Mom, Laney instantly feels at home among the Roanokes. She thinks they are the family she always wanted.

The chapters that take place in the present hint at something dark and unnatural that occurs in the house. Cooper, Laney's on-again, off-again boyfriend often wonders what goes on in the Roanoke house.

Yates, the head of the Roanoke family, is possibly the most nefarious literary character ever invented. He preys upon the Roanoke girls' vulnerability. His charm and genuine love for them only make his actions worst.

Gran, though, is a close second. Her actions are almost incomprehensible.

Despite the fact that it is a thriller, the pace can be frustrating. Readers know pretty early on what is happening to Allegra, yet no one confronts Yates until near the end.

The clues are nicely placed. Allegra carves words into surfaces, a kind of diary for others to read.

In the end this is a gripping read but also extremely unsettling.

I requested a pre-publication copy of The Roanoke Girls from Netgalley and Crown Publishing. The novel's expected release date is March 7, 2017.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

"Roanoke girls never last long around here." She skipped along the hall, her voice growing fainter as she moved, like we were standing at opposite ends of a tunnel. "In the end, we either run or we die."

Allegra, The Roanoke Girls.

Disturbing and intriguing in equal measure, this novel has the power to haunt readers. Responding to a family crisis, Lane finds herself revisiting a dark corner of her adolescence, the summer she spent at her grandparents farm in Kansas.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Astray by Emma Donoghue

The impressive short stories in Astray are based on actual historical events. Donoghue, who wrote The Room, is able to get into the minds of countless people from a wide variety of historical periods.

"Man and Boy," which portrays the loving relationship between an elephant and his keeper is based on Wild Animals in Captivity. The story closely follows the actual removal of Jumbo's London Zoo to a circus and the uproar it caused.

"The Widow's Cruse" is loosely based on a journal entry from the Weekly Journal dated May 26, 1735. A widow hoodwinks a man who means to take her fortune.

Some of Donoghue's stories are inspired by her trip to the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona e.g. "Last Supper at Brown's" and the "The Long Way Home."

The narrator's dramatic dialogues gives readers a keyhole glimpse to history. Its just a keyhole glimpse; We don't see, for instance, the whole of the 
Revolutionary War, just the experience of one fifteen-year-old Hessian in "The Hunt" who decides to act villainously.

We don't see the whole slave experience in Texas; we're given instead the story of one man who kills his master and runs away with his mistress ("Last Supper at Brown's"). We're told the lamentable story of a bored daughter whose games and lies lead to the selling of a honest slave-girl, Milly ("Vanitas")

Astray is a powerhouse of a short story collection that is divided into three parts: Departures, In-Transit, Arrivals and Aftermaths.