Title: The Monsters of Templeton
Author: Lauren Groff
Two Sentence Summary: A small town’s wayward daughter returns home in disgrace, only to discover the story she’s always been told about her absent father is a lie. As she digs into her hometown’s past, the young woman uncovers many dark secrets.
Two Sentence Review: I thought The Monsters of Templeton was totally and absolutely delightful. I’m becoming addicted to literary mysteries.
Summary (Source): One dark summer dawn in Templeton, New York, at the moment an enormous monster surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass, twenty-eight-year-old Willie Upton returns pregnant and miserable to her hometown of Templeton, N.Y. Willie is a descendant of the creator of the town, Marmaduke Temple, and she expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for centuries. But the monster changes the fabric of the village, and Willie’s mother, Vivienne, has a surprise that will send Willie careening through her family’s history to dig up clues about her heritage. Spanning two centuries and based on Cooperstown, New York., the story is told through two centuries of voices, from Templeton ghosts to residents, masters to servants, natives to interlopers, and historical figures to literary characters.
Review: I’ve put off writing anything about Lauren Groff’s debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, for a long time because it’s one of those books that makes me inarticulate with how much awesomeness it contains. This is one seriously amazing book.
First, I just loved the way the story shifts voices and perspectives. Willie has the main voice of the story, but Groff intersperses so many other voices and sources — diaries, newspaper articles, family trees — that the novel just grows and grows as you keep reading. And the other characters are so juicy and interesting, bastards and murders and black widows and unethical newspaper publishers and former football players. They’re just so much of what makes this book rich.
Second, I loved the monster. I’m still not exactly sure how the sort of mystical monster meshes with the more down-to-earth part of this book, but every time Groff wrote about this monster that arose from the lake, I couldn’t help getting a little teary-eyed thinking about this beautiful creature being dead. It’s totally bizarre, and I can’t even tell you quite what it looks like or what this monster was doing, but I somehow fell in love with this creature.
And third, I loved the mystery. Well, mysteries. The Monsters of Templeton opens with many, many unanswered questions and, for the most part, Groff answers them effectively and in good time. I never felt like the plot was stringing me along without a destination in mind, or that the mysteries that got set up early weren’t going to have a sort of payoff in the end. On the whole, it’s remarkably well-plotted, which I appreciated.
I want to shove this book into the hands of as many people as possible. I even went out and bought myself a copy right after I finished it because I know it’s destined to end up on my shelf as a long-term favorite read. I can’t wait to read more from Lauren Groff.
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