Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Originally posted Mar. 4, 2008

I liked this book a lot; it is complicated in its own way and yet all laid out for us in a relatively direct manner. The occasional (revised) family trees helped to keep it in order. I loved the first line in the version I read "The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass." Now, who wouldn’t be interested in a book that begins with the whole outer limits of the story presented in those few words? This book has so much within its pages! There are many stories within the story, some short, some longer, but all pertinent to the whole. There is also a quote from the Author’s Note referring to her final prompt to begin writing that I think gives us a glimpse of Lauren Groff’s own character as to how this story would be written: "That’s about the time his [James Fenimore Cooper] characters knocked on the door and joined the party."

This book is ostensibly about Willie (Wilhelmina) Upton, but it is also about a small town’s occupants, the history of both town and Willie’s heritage and much more. The book is descriptive, the characters are fully formed, and I can picture it all so easily. Willie came home from Alaska where she was working as part of an archaeology team, with a feeling of guilt and uselessness. Through living back in Templeton, Willie comes to an understanding of who she is. Her mother, a descendent of the town’s founding father Marmaduke Temple, challenges her to discover who her father is and tells her only that he lives in the town and is also a descendent of Marmaduke (Duke). An old school friend and an elderly librarian become two unlikely allies in her search. Each new search brings us another story as each descendent is “discovered”, and she learns there were more “monsters” in the town than the one in the lake, but it makes for a very interesting debut book. I am fascinated by Groff’s method and writing. I am certainly looking forward to more books by this author.

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