"The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass."
So begins The Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl's search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family.
In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton, New York, where her hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mom, Vi, still lives. Willie expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but the monster's death changes the fabric of the quiet, picture-perfect town her ancestors founded. Even further, Willie learns that the story her mother had always told her about her father has all been a lie: he wasn't the random man from a free-love commune that Vi had led her to imagine, but someone else entirely. Someone from this very town.
As Willie puts her archaeological skills to work digging for the truth about her lineage, she discovers that the secrets of her family run deep. Through letters, editorials, and journal entries, the dead rise up to tell their sides of the story as dark mysteries come to light, past and present blur, old stories are finally put to rest, and the shocking truth about more than one monster is revealed.
The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the
fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass. It was one of
those strange purple dawns that color July there, when the bowl made by the
hills fills with a thick fog and even the songbirds sing timorously, unsure of
day or night.
The fog was still deep when Dr. Cluny found the monster on his morning row. I imagine how it went: the slide of the scull's knife across the lake, the oar heads casting rings on the water, the red bow light pulsing into the dark. Then, sudden, looming over the doctor's shoulder, an island where there had never before been an island, the vast belly of the dead beast. Gliding backward, the old doctor couldn't see it. He neared; the bow-ball of his boat pushed into the rubbery flesh like a finger into a balloon; the pressure of the boat versus skin reached a tensile limit without piercing anything; the boat checked its bow-ward motion., and ...
If one were to complain about Monsters, the overwhelming number of characters and voices introduced throughout the root story would be the most likely grievance. Yet for some readers, this layering of history and modern day will be a large part of the book's appeal. The determination must be based on personal taste and reading mood. This is a book for readers wishing to be enveloped by their reading, willing to be engrossed, and desirous of a novel that requires them to devote their full attention to its pages. For those who are browsing for a breezy read, Groff's work is probably not the title to pick off of the shelf.
(Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Full Review (932 words).
A Scenic Tour of Cooperstown,
Though Groff's preface clearly defines her book as a work of fiction, she also admits that it is a love story of sorts for her childhood hometown of Cooperstown, New York. Cooperstown, a village in Otsego County, has several claims to fame, the most prominent of which is the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1908, the seven-man Mills Commission chose Cooperstown as the site for the Hall of Fame. The Mills Commission was formed ...
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