Book Review: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Photo of The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Pages – 238
Publisher – Hodder & Stoughton

“Because that’s the one thing women are never, ever allowed to be. We can be sad, distraught, confused, pleading, forgiving. But not furious. Fury is reserved for other people. The worst thing you can be is an angry woman, an angry mother.”

Earlier this year I read The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel and so far it remains my favourite book that I’ve read in 2020. After finishing I was desperate to see what other books she had and I was ecstatic to see that she was going to have a new book out soon! I rarely ever pre order books but I was on this like a shot!

I loved Engel’s writing style so much and although I had only read one of her books before I had a feeling that I was going to love this and decided to take the chance. The day it was delivered I ripped open the package, admired having it in my hands and started reading it. I always treat getting new books like an excitable kid at Christmas. 

The Familiar Dark is set in a small, rough town in Missouri Ozarks and we follow a single mother, Eve, whose daughter has been murdered. Eve has had a difficult life, being brought up by her drug addict mother with only her brother there to look out for her but when she fell pregnant with Junie, Eve promised to make a better life for the both of them. But now, Junie has been killed and with all her fury Eve plans to track down her daughter’s killer. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone has something to hide. And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

One of the things I admire the most about Engel’s writing is that it has such a ‘moreish’ feel to it. I didn’t want this reading experience to end, I had similar feelings with The Roanoke Girls as well. Engel is a genius when it comes to writing unlikable and complex characters, plot twists and pacing, it feels non-stop and I can’t get enough of it. 

The relationship between Eve and her own mother is so uncomfortable that it feels like you’re walking on hot coals, you believe that one of them might kill the other but because of the bizarre way their family is, they do look out for one another. It’s one of the most believable, hateful and trustworthy relationships that I have ever read. Eve herself is a ball of rage and I fell in love with her. There are glimpses into her past that make her sympathetic and shows you the amount she has grown and how she tried to give her daughter the best life she could with so little money.

There are dark moments that show abusive relationships and drugs and violence which made me squirm in my chair and I adore a book that can make me feel like that. Not everyone is a scumbag, there are people in Eve’s life such as her brother and the parents of Junie’s best friend who break up the dread and anger in this book.

The ending to this book made me cry. It wasn’t dramatic but as you read the final chapter and you realize what’s going on it lifted a weight inside my chest. It was the perfect ending to what is a perfect book for me and unsurprisingly I gave this five stars. Read it now or any other of Engel’s work as you really need to experience her craft.


First Published on:

Off the Record is and always will be a free platform, but if you like what we do here and want to contribute to the production of future content then you can do so by donating to our PayPal or Ko-Fi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s