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The Monsters of Templetonby Lauren Groff
Mystery, academic comedy, ghost story, literary romance... Monsters of Templeton is a rich, rewarding debut whose pieces stitch together seamlessly. A smart pleasure, it is one of my favorite (and most frequently recommended) books of the year.
Synopses & Reviews
In the wake of a disastrous affair with her older, married archeology professor at Stanford, brilliant Wilhelmina Cooper arrives back at the doorstep of her hippie mother-turned born-again-Christian's house in Templeton, NY, a storybook town her ancestors founded that sits on the shores of Lake Glimmerglass.
Upon her arrival, a prehistoric monster surfaces in the lake bringing a feeding frenzy to the quiet town, and Willie learns she has a mystery father her mother kept secret Willie's entire life. The beautiful, broody Willie is told that the key to her biological father's identity lies somewhere in her family's history, so she buries herself in the research of her twisted family tree and finds more than she bargained for as a chorus of voices from the town's past — some sinister, all fascinating — rise up around her to tell their side of the story. In the end, dark secrets come to light, past and present day are blurred, and old mysteries are finally put to rest.
A fresh, virtuoso performance that will surely place Groff among the best young writers of today.
"At the start of Groff's lyrical debut, 28-year-old Wilhelmina 'Willie' Upton returns to her picturesque hometown of Templeton, N.Y., after a disastrous affair with her graduate school professor during an archeological dig in Alaska. In Templeton, Willie's shocked to find that her once-bohemian mother, Vi, has found religion. Vi also reveals to Willie that her father wasn't a nameless hippie from Vi's commune days, but a man living in Templeton. With only the scantiest of clues from Vi, Willie is determined to untangle the roots of the town's greatest families and discover her father's identity. Brilliantly incorporating accounts from generations of Templetonians — as well as characters 'borrowed' from the works of James Fenimore Cooper, who named an upstate New York town 'Templeton' in The Pioneers — Groff paints a rich picture of Willie's current predicaments and those of her ancestors. Readers will delight in Willie's sharp wit and Groff's creation of an entire world, complete with a lake monster and illegitimate children. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The sense of sadness I feel at the approaching end of The Monsters of Templeton isn't just because the story's going to be over; when you read a good one — and this is a very good one — those feelings are deepened by the realization that you probably won't tie into anything that much fun again for a long time." Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
"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." Booklist
"Lauren Groff hits a home run in her first at-bat, with a novel that is intriguingly constructed and compulsively readable....Groff casts an ambitious net, and it absolutely works....And the elements do finally come together to a surprisingly satisfying end." Denver Post
"The Monsters of Templeton, a fascinating first novel by Lauren Groff, is a book with joy in its marrow....Reading this exquisite book is like swimming through warm water filled with wondrous things...floating in a kind of timelessness." San Francisco Chronicle
"Liberally peppered with old photographs, diary entries, letters, and a family tree constantly in need of revision as Willie eliminates one possibility after another spanning more than two centuries of shocking Templeton history, this is an irresistible adventure. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Lauren Groff's multilayered saga...both thrills and delights with its poignant, breathtaking prose. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"[T]here seem to be two novels here, and they don't fit together terribly well. 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." Kirkus Reviews
"Ms. Groff's inexperience shows in this overcrowding, as it does in overly mellifluous turns of phrase....But it speaks well for her narrative talents that Willie Upton...holds even more interest than the elaborate events that surround her." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"The Monsters of Templeton is a bold and beautiful hybrid of a book....Lauren Groff is an exciting young novelist, gifted with an elegant prose style and a narrative ambition as deep and as serious as the human mysteries she sets out to explore." Lorrie Moore
"Groff breathes new life into her vivid characters, even those on loan from Cooper's novels....The Monsters of Templeton makes readers work, but its rewards are worth it. Groff...is a talent to watch and celebrate." USA Today
"The historical puzzle satisfies to the end, but in the present day, Groff tries a little too hard to smooth out Willie's future....Still, as a work of imagination, The Monsters of Templeton excels." Christian Science Monitor
Wilhelmina Cooper is told that the key to her biological father's identity lies somewhere in her family's history. She buries herself in the research of her twisted family tree and finds that a chorus of voices from the town's past — some sinister, all fascinating — rises up around her to tell their side of the story.
In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in storybook Templeton, New York, looking to hide in the one place to which she swore she'd never come back. As soon as she arrives, though, a prehistoric monster surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass, changing the very fabric of the town. What's more, Willie's hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mother, Vi, tells her a secret she's been hiding for nearly thirty years: that Willie's father 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 when past and present blur, dark mysteries come to light, and the shocking truth about more than one monster is revealed.
About the Author
Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, New York, which is the model for Templeton, her novel's setting. Groff's short stories have appeared in publications including the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares and The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.
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