BookBrowse Reviews The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Monsters of Templeton

A Novel

by Lauren Groff

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2008, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A first novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl's search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story

Childhood typically includes a period of sleepless nights and interrupted playtimes caused by the fearful sense that monsters lurk under beds or behind attic doors. Thankfully, this phobia passes for most little ones as they mature and monsters are relegated to movie screens or campfire stories. By adulthood, monsters are pure fantasy – hardly a subject of concern or any thought at all.  Not so in Lauren Groff's Templeton (modeled after real life Cooperstown, New York) where monsters both real and metaphorical are oddly prominent in daily adult life. The metaphorical goblins are more menacing than the fleshy ones, however; they slither and hover in the form of family secrets, small town prejudices, faulty assumptions and other ills of human society.

Groff intended to write a book about a town she cherishes, showcasing its rich history alongside its present-day menagerie of baseball fame and small town life. She accomplishes this goal with great success, adding to her tribute a wild tale of messy genealogy and unorthodox family ties. In The Monsters of Templeton's opening pages, the reader quickly senses that the main character's distaste for her childhood village can only lead to a reversal of that feeling as the story unfolds. Other twists, whether they involve the bizarre (expired underwater monsters) or the familiar (those dreaded awkward encounters with old high school classmates) are a bit harder to predict.

Just as her mother, Vivienne, did years ago, protagonist Wilhemina (Willie) Sunshine Upton retreats to Templeton in a sorry state. Panicked, she has returned to Templeton and her mother's home only as a last resort, but gradually accepts that her hometown is undeniably linked to her identity. Willie's version of soul-searching becomes an obsessive separating of truth from myth in her family history and Templeton lore. Willie's family ties are tightly linked to the village saga because Upton mother and daughter are infamously descended from the town father, Marmaduke Temple. As Willie's days unravel in the present, readers are also introduced to generations of Temples and other important figures of Templeton history. As a result, the book's narrative is punctuated by vignettes of relatives in Willie's prestigious family – characters whom Groff modeled after real Cooperstown figures as well as characters in James Fenimore Cooper novels.

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.

The Monsters of Templeton, which took Groff over three years and four drafts to complete, is an admirable, heavily-researched accomplishment and at the same time, a good read – categories for which many books can only be labeled one or the other. Readers of this fictional ode to Cooperstown, New York will be rewarded by talented, complex writing and a multi-layered story with more than a touch of fantasy, plus a family tree littered with black sheep.

Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie

This review was originally published in April 2008, and has been updated for the November 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.