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Summary and book reviews of The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

The Monsters of Templeton

A Novel

by Lauren Groff

The Monsters of Templeton
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2008, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

"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.

Chapter 1
HOMECOMING

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

In her debut novel, Lauren Groff tells the story of Willie Upton, a twenty-eight-year-old graduate student who returns brokenhearted to her ancestral home in fictional Templeton, New York, after her world crumbles under her feet. Equal parts contemporary novel, historical fiction, and ghost story, The Monsters of Templeton plays with elements as diverse as the relationships between mothers and daughters, the costs of digging into the past in order to understand the present, and what it means to go home. The questions below are designed to help guide your book group’s discussion of this textured, compelling novel.


  1. What did you think of the range of voices and time periods the author employs in The Monsters of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Flawed, but commendably ambitious and stuffed with ideas-many of them not well developed, but inspiring hope for a more disciplined second effort from this talented newcomer.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers will delight in Willie's sharp wit and Groff's creation of an entire world, complete with a lake monster and illegitimate children.

Booklist

A fantastically fun read, a kind of wild pastiche that is part historical novel and part mystery, with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.

Library Journal

[T]his is an irresistible adventure. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Stephen King
I was sorry to see this rich and wonderful novel come to an end, and there is no higher success than that.

Reader Reviews
Ladyslott

Monsters Are Often next Door
This book is hard to categorize, part fiction, mystery and fantasy. Willie (Wilhelmina) Upton has returned to her hometown of Templeton NY. She has left school at Stanford in disgrace and hopes to hide away in the town that her family has lived ...   Read More

Judy Krueger

Disappointed in Templeton
I wish I could say that I loved this book, but I didn't. I was looking forward to it with high expectations because I had read a story by the author in the 2007 Best American Short Stories which just took my breath away. I think this is an ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Scenic Tour of Cooperstown, New York

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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