The Secret Token

Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke
Narrated by: David H. Lawrence XVII
Length: 14 hrs and 23 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4 out of 5 stars (100 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping account of America's oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer, and what the Lost Colony reveals about America today 

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina to establish the first English settlement in the New World. But when the new colony's leader returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers had vanished, leaving behind only a single clue - a "secret token" etched into a tree.

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke? That question has consumed historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths for 400 years. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma. In the course of his journey, Lawler examines how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness.

Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony and its fate, but of how its absence continues to define - and divide - America.

©2018 Andrew Lawler (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Andrew Lawler warns...that Lost Colony fever is a kind of madness. Happily, that doesn’t stop him from plunging into the wild terrain of theories and conflicting evidence where so many others have disappeared. Lawler manages to do this in a clear-eyed way, conscious of whether he, too, is getting lost. He makes a good case that the search itself goes to the heart of what it means to be American. Plus, it’s just plain fascinating.... The themes of mingled races, of cultures clashing to create something new, are surprisingly fresh and powerful.” (The Washington Post

The Secret Token, spanning more than 400 years, offers the most authoritative account of the Lost Colony to date.... [Lawler] recounts his arduous travels with clarity and insight.” (Wall Street Journal

“[Lawler’s] willingness to chase down every lead, no matter how outlandish, and his enthusiasm for the journey as much as the destination, make The Secret Token a lively and engaging read.” (The Economist

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent take on Lost Colony history

Wow! Best Lost Colony story I've read in years. Roanoke Island is my home and the author took me back to the Outer Banks and eastern NC with ease.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good Enough

You probably already know something about the story if you're reading this book. If you're completely new to the topic you'll enjoy it and if you know a lot to begin with it goes down every hypothesized outcome established over the centuries. The last portion of the book talks about the bizarre history, Virginia Dare fanaticism, and obsession in modern times around the Lost Colony.

This book reminded me of a good book called "Where is Dr. Leichhardt?" about a vanished expedition in Western Australia. Both have scant evidence to go on, both led to extensive searches that turned up very little, but you do come away from both books with a sense that you do generally know more than you started the books with. Is this audiobook worth your time? I'd say it is worth your time, but it's not the best book you'll ever read. It's a good book if you're interested in Roanoke. It's good enough.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great history and a great story

This book was in-depth and well researched. It’s not just about the colony but about the mystery surrounding the search for it. The book is great for anyone who loves American history and mystery. The best part is that it’s a true story and not fiction.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Interesting history review

Good knowledge for all USA peoples to listen few times. Past will become our foundation for space exploration. The next frontier.

1 person found this helpful

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  • SB
  • 03-22-19

great book with lots of details! great author!!!

the author does an outstanding job of presenting subject matter and while there is no definitive answer as the what happened to the Roanoke colonist, he does offer all the theories that I'm aware of and does so in a very entertaining way!

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

the first half of this book is terrific

The first half of this book is good history, probably worth the $ for the entire audiobook. The second half is rambling. In the first half, Lawler tells the history of the voyage and colonization, include a good deal of background about what was going on in England around colonization in the late 1500s and some information that was new to me about the settlement. In the second half, he reverts to newspaper-style journalism rather than history and historical analysis. The one piece of history in the second half he uncovers, and is interesting, is about the Portuguese pirate/navigator/investor but this section isn't connected up to the broader theory of the lost colony, is perhaps irrelevant to it. To readers interested in the historical portions, you might (as I did) slow those sections to 1x, and in the journalistic and more rambling sections, speed the MP3 player to 1.5x (as I did). If I had had the physical book, I probably would have read the thesis statements at the head of each paragraph or section in the second half of the book, but that is not possible in the audio format.

I would still give a 5-5-5 star grade to the first half, and in the second half, a lower grade to the "story" portion. Which explains the overall score in the story category of 3. The narration performance is excellent throughout.

3 people found this helpful

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trying to capitalize on race relations

what started off as a good book, turned into just another political allegory. just cant escape people's disdain of President Trump. the author tries to connect the colonization of Indians to our current border crisis of illegal aliens. this is the second modern book I've read in the past six months where trump's name has no business being mentioned, but yet it does. the ironic aspect about this book is that that author advises that many times archeologists pigeon hole their research and discoveries to fit into a predetermined narrative. that this inherently skews their research. well the author does that himself. he goes into the Roanoke mystery primed to tell a tale of how evil white people are...beginning with Roanoke, and stretches to the Jim crow era of the south. his twist...that the original lost settlers mixed with the native Indians, thus concluding that white supremacists who tout Virginia Dare as their evangelical poster child of a superior race, are in fact praising a white woman who commingled with Indians. oh the irony! the author focuses on Lane and his cruelty, and goes on how evil white people continued his legacy by enslaving Africans, etc. what he doesnt go into detail, what history books dont go into detail, because in this PC culture you would be labeled a racist is...native Americans had violent cultures. many of them were in tribal warfare even when the 1584 Europeans arrived. the author ignores the possibility that the local Indians slaughtered the settlers and ravaged their possessions. their remains could have been buried by the shifting sands of the outer banks. no, that wouldn't fit with his narrative that white people are evil, and that wouldn't help him sell books during this charged racial climate. this book is just more racial pandering and a play on white guilt.

6 people found this helpful