The Monsters of Templeton

The Monsters of Templeton

by Lauren Groff


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER — the debut novel by the acclaimed author of Fates and Furies.

"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 contemporary story of a girl's search for her father; part historical novel; and part ghost story. In the wake of a disastrous love affair with her older, married archaeology 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, one 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.

The Monsters of Templeton
is a fresh, virtuoso performance that has placed Lauren Groff among the best writers of today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316434713
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 07/13/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 187,832
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Lauren Groff is the author of Arcadia, a New York Times Notable Book, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and finalist for the L.A. Times Book Award; Delicate Edible Birds, a collection of short stories; and Fates and Furies, a National Book Award finalist. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Tin House, One Story, McSweeney's, and Ploughshares, and in the anthologies 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and three editions of The Best American Short Stories. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and two sons.


Gainesville, FL, USA

Date of Birth:

July 23, 1978

Place of Birth:

Cooperstown, NY, USA


BA English and French Literature, Amherst College, 201: MFA in Fiction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1


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 boat versus skin reached a tensile limit without piercing anything; the boat checked its bow-ward motion, and jerked to stern. The doctor turned, but he was prepared only for the possible, and didn't at first know what was before him. When he saw the large and terrible eye still milking over with death, the good doctor blinked. And then he fainted.

When Dr. Cluny came to, the dawn had thinned, the water was shot with bars of light, and he found himself rowing around and around the bellied-up beast, weeping. In his mouth there was the sweet burn of horehound candy, the exact savor of his long-ago childhood. Only when a seagull landed upon the flat chin of the leviathan and bent to steal a taste did Dr. Cluny return to himself; only then did he skid back over the water to the awakening town, shouting his news.

"Miracle," he called. "Miracle. Come, quick, see."

At that precise moment, I was idling in the park across the street from Averell Cottage, my childhood home. For at least an hour, I had been standing in the depression that the town flooded in winter to make a skating rink, gathering what courage I could. The fog veiled my grand, awkward house, with its original cottage from 1793, one wing from Victorian 1890, and another from the tasteless 1970s, turning the whole into something more coherent, almost beautiful. In my delirium, I thought I could see my mother inside with a few lifetimes of family antiques and the gentle ghost that lived in my childhood room, all traced like bones on an X-ray, delicate as chalk.

I felt the world around me creak and strain, snapping apart, fiber by fiber, like a rope pulled too tautly.

Back near Buffalo I had had a glimpse of myself in a rest-stop bathroom, and was horrified to find myself transformed into a stranger in rumpled, dirty clothing, my once-pretty face bloated and red with crying jags. I was drawn, thin, welted with the bites of a thousand Alaskan blackflies. My hair, shorn in April, was now growing out in weird brown tufts. I looked like some little chick, starving, molting, kicked out of the nest for late-discovered freakishness.

As the night thinned around me, I leaned over and retched. And I still hadn't moved when, down Lake Street, there came a muffled trampling sound. I knew before I saw them that the sounds were from the Running Buds, a small, dear band of middle-aged men who jog around the streets of Templeton every morning, in all weather, in ice, in rain, in this fine-pelted fog. When the Buds came nearer, I could hear gentle talking, some spitting, some wheezing over their footsteps. They moved out of the dark and into the glow of the single streetlamp on Lake Street, and seeing me in the park in my little depression, seeing, perhaps, something familiar about me but not quite recognizing who I was at that distance, all six of them raised their hands in my direction. I waved back and watched their thick bodies disappear down the street.

I found my feet crossing the street, heading up the driveway, passing through the garage doorway, and I opened the door to the mudroom to the smells of straw and dust and bitter orange, the smells of home. I almost turned around, returned to the car, waited for day. I hadn't seen my mother in more than a year: I couldn't afford the trip home, and, for the first time since I'd left, she hadn't offered to pay. Instead, though, I came in as silently as I could, hoping to have a few good hours of sleep before awakening her. I placed my shoes beside her white nursing clogs, and went through the mudroom, then the kitchen.

But although I had expected Vi to be sleeping, she was sitting at the kitchen table with the Freeman's Journal spread before her, her profile reflected in the great plate glass door that looked out over the two-acre lawn, the lake, the hills. She must have had a night shift, because her feet were in an enamel bowl filled with hot water, her eyes closed, her face hanging above her tea as if she were trying to steam her features off. They were slipping that way, anyhow: at forty-six, my mother had the worn, pouchy skin of a woman who had done far too many drugs at far too young an age. Her shoulders were slumped, and the zipper in the back of her skirt was open, revealing a swatch of red cotton underwear and a muffin-top of flesh above it.

From my position in the kitchen door, my mother looked old. If I weren't already holding the pieces together with both squeezed hands, this sight would have broken my heart.

I must have moved or swallowed, because Vi turned her head and looked at me. Her eyes narrowed, she blinked and heaved a sigh, and passed a hand over her face. "Goddamn flashbacks," she muttered.

I snorted.

She looked at me again, her forehead creasing. "No. You're not a flashback, Willie. Are you?"

"Not this time. Apparently," I said, coming over to her and kissing her on the part in her hair. She smelled antiseptic from the hospital, but, deeper, there was her own smell, something birdlike, like warm and dusty wings. She squeezed my hand, flushing.

"You look horrible. What in the world are you doing home?" she said.

"Oh boy." I sighed, and had to look away, at the thinning curls of fog on the lake. When I looked back, the smile had fallen off her face.

"What. The heck. Are you. Doing home?" she said, again, still squeezing, but harder with each word until the bones in my hand were crushing one another.

"Jesus," I gasped.

"Well," she said, "if you're in trouble, you'd better be praying." It was only then that I saw the crude cross of raw iron that hung heavily between her breasts, as if my mother had gone to the Farmers' Museum up the road and blacksmithed her own crucifix out of two hobnails. I nudged the cross with my free hand and frowned.

"Vi?" I said. "Oh don't tell me you've become a Jesus freak. You're a hippie, for God's sake. Remember? Organized religion equals bad?"

She released my hand, and tugged the cross away. "That," she said, "is none of your business." For a long moment, though, Vi couldn't look at me.

"Vi," I said, "be serious. What's going on?"

My mother sighed and said, "People change, Willie."

"You don't," I said.

"You should be glad I do," she said. She dropped her eyes, not yet remembering that I was standing there in her house when I should have been under the twenty-four-hour dazzle of an Alaskan tundra. I should have been blowing lichen off definitive proof that human culture existed there over thirty-five thousand years ago, some incisor embedded deep in the ground, some tool still glistening with seal grease, intact from the deep freezer of the steppe. I should have been under the aegis of Dr. Primus Dwyer, PhD, Delano Professor in the Sciences at Stanford University, where in a few short months I was supposed to finish my PhD dissertation, and graduate, heading toward a life of impossible luminescence.

When I told my mother in my sophomore year that I wanted to focus my furious ambitions in archaeology, she looked bitterly disappointed for a moment. "Oh, Willie," she'd said then. "There is nothing left in this world for you to discover, honey. Why look backward when you can look forward?" I talked for hours then, of the intensity of wonder when you blew away the dust and found an ancient skull in your hand, when you held the flint knives and saw the chisel marks made by long-dead hands. Like so many people who have long ago burnt through all of their own passion, my mother recognized mine, and longed for it. Archaeology would take me into the great world, into deserts and tundras, as far away from Templeton as I believed she had always wanted me to be. By now, her ego and a good portion of what inheritance she had left were invested in this dream: me as intrepid explorer of bone and potsherds, tunneling into the vastness of prehistory. Now, in the lightening dawn, she looked at me. A motorboat was speeding across the lake at top throttle, and its whine rose even to us, set two acres back on glowing, overgrown lawn.

"Oh, Willie," said my mother now. "Are you in trouble," and it was a statement, not a question.

"Vi?" I said. "I messed up big-time."

"Of course," she said. "Why else would you find yourself in Templeton? You can hardly stand to come back once a year for Christmas."

"Goddamn it, Vi," I said, and I sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and rested my head on the table.

My mother looked at me and then sighed. "Willie," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm so tired. Tell me now what happened so I can get some sleep, and we'll deal with it later."

I looked at her, then had to look down at the table. I traced designs in the waxy residue of its surface. And then I told her one version of the story, vastly abridged.

"Well, Vi," I said. "It looks like I'm pregnant. And it's maybe Dr. Primus Dwyer's."

My mother held her fingers over her mouth. "Oh, heaven help us," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "But, Vi, there's more." I said it in one exhale, in a great whoosh. I told her that I also tried to run over his wife with a bush plane, and she was the dean of students, and it was probable that charges of attempted manslaughter would prevent me from returning to Stanford again. I held my breath and waited for the knuckled sting of the back of her hand. Despite Vi's hippie mores, it was not uncommon in my childhood for us to get to this point in our battles, panting and narrow-eyed, stalemated across the table. And once or twice, for my greatest sins, she did send her hand across to settle it all with a smack.

But she didn't hit me now, and it was so silent I could hear the two-hundred-year-old grandfather clock in the dining room as the pendulum clicked, clicked, clicked. When I looked up, Vi was shaking her head. "I can't believe it," she said, pushing her tea farther from her with one finger. "I raised you to be exceptional, and here you are, a fuckup. Like your stupid fuckup mother." Her face wobbled and grew red.

I tried to touch her arm, but she snatched it away, as if mere contact with me could burn her. "I'm going to take a few pills," she said, standing. "I'm going to sleep for as long as I can sleep. And when I wake up, we're dealing with this." She moved heavily to the door. With her back still toward me, she paused. "And oh, Willie, your hair. You had such beautiful hair," she said and moved away. I could hear her footsteps on every creaking floorboard in the old house, up the grand front stairway, far away over the hall and into the master bedroom.

Only in recent years did such coolness arise between Vi and me. When I was little, I would play cribbage and euchre with my young mother until midnight, laughing so hard I never wanted to go to the few sleepovers and birthday parties I was invited to. My mother and I held an odd relationship with the town, as we were the last remnants of its founder, Marmaduke Temple, and direct descendants of the great novelist Jacob Franklin Temple, whose novels we read every year in high school, whose link to me would actually make a college professor burst into tears when I confessed it. But we were too poor and my mother was young, unmarried, and too weird with her macramé and loud politics, and so when we left the safety of our eccentric house, it always felt like Vi and me against the world. I remember vividly when I was ten or so-which would have made my mother my age, twenty-eight-listening outside her door as she wept for hours after being slighted in the grocery store, that one memory standing in for many. I dreamt at night of being so big I could march down Main Street, grinding our enemies under my furious ogre's feet.

Alone now in the dawn, I drank the rest of my mother's tea to melt the block of ice in my gut. Vi was wrong: I did want to come home. Templeton was to me like a less-important limb, something inherently mine, something I took for granted. My own tiny, lovely village with great old mansions and a glorious lake, my own grand little hamlet where everyone knows your name, but with elaborate little frills that made it unlike anywhere else; the baseball museum, the Opera, the hospital that had vast arms extending into the rest of upstate, an odd mix of Podunk and cosmopolitan. I came back when I had to, to feel safe, to recharge; I just hadn't had to in so long.

For a while I sat alone at the table, watching the crows fall into the vegetable garden, pecking at the heirloom vegetables that thrived every year under Vi's benign neglect. Then the motorboat that had gone out before zipped back, and soon more motorboats were roaring out into the lake like a vee of geese. Curious, I slid open the glass door and went onto the porch, in the warming dawn. From where I stood, the hills around Lake Glimmerglass looked like the haunch end of a sleeping lion, smooth and pelted. I watched until the motorboats came back into sight, collectively straining to pull something pale behind them, something enormous and glinting in the new sun.

And that's how I found myself running barefoot over the cold grass down to Lakefront Park, even as weary as I was at that moment. I went past our pool, now so thick with algae that it had become a frog pond, plunking with a thousand belly flops of terror when I passed. I went down the stretch of lawn, across the concrete bridge over Shadow Brook, trespassed over Mrs. Harriman's backyard until I stood in the road at Lakefront Park, and watched the motorboats coast in.

I stood under the bronze statue of the Mohican, the best known of the characters by our town novelist, Jacob Franklin Temple, and, slowly, others gathered around me, people from my childhood who nodded at me in recognition, startled by the great change in my appearance, struck silent by the solemnity of the moment. Somehow, none of us was surprised. Templeton is a town of accreted myth: that baseball was invented here; that a petrified giant, ten feet tall and pockmarked with age, was disinterred from under the old mill-a hoax; that ghosts lived among us. And we had been prepared for this day by the myths we'd always heard about a lake monster, the childhood tales around campfires in the summer camps on the lake, the small rumors filtered down. The town crazy, Piddle Smalley, would stand on a bench in Farkle Park wearing his pants backward-urine-soaked, which is why we called him Piddle-and shout about the rain-swollen April day when he stood on the Susquehanna bridge, staring down into the fat river, and something immense passed by, grinning its black teeth up at him. He'd shriek at the end of his story Glimmey, Glimmey, Glimmey, as if in invocation.

Most of Templeton was watching as the motorboats cut their engines and glided in. The Chief Uncas tourist boat groaned in the waves against the dock. The Running Buds climbed out with great gravitas, old joints creaking, and secured the beast's tethers to the iron hitches in the walls at the lake's edge. And in those brief minutes before the baseball tourists in town heard of our miracle and came running with their vulgar cameras and shouts and poses, before the news trucks drove ninety miles per hour from Oneonta, Utica, Albany, there, in the long, peaceful quiet, we had a few moments to consider our monster.

In that brief time, we were able to see it in its entirety. The beast was huge, a heavy cream color that darkened to lemon in places, and was floating on its back. It looked like a carp grown enormous, with a carp's fat belly and round eye, but with a long, articulated neck like a ballet dancer's, and four finned legs, plump as a frog's. The ropes of the motorboat had cut into its skin, and the wounds were open to the day, still oozing dark, thick blood. I stepped forward to touch the beast, then everyone else did. When I placed my hand upon its belly, I felt its porous skin, its hairs as small and delicate as the ones on my own arms, but thicker, as if the beast were covered in peach fuzz. And, though I had expected the early sun to have warmed it, the monster burned cold, as if its very core was made of the ice some said still existed at the bottom of our glacial lake.

It was somehow clear, even then, that the monster had been lonely. The folds above its eye made the old face look wistful, and it emanated such a strong sense of solitude that each human standing in the park that day felt miles from the others, though we were shoulder-to-shoulder, touching. Later, we would hear that when the divers couldn't reach the bottom of our lake, they called in deep-sea pods to search for another beast like the one that surfaced that day. We would hear that, scour as they might, they couldn't find another beast like ours, only detritus: rusted tractors and plastic buoys, and even an antique phonograph. They found a yellow-painted phaeton in its entirety, the bones of a small spaniel inside. They also found dozens of human skeletons, drowned or dumped corpses, arranged side-by-side in some trick of current or metaphysics, on a shallow shelf near Kingfisher Tower, beside Judith's Point.

That morning, before I drew my hand away from the monster, I felt an overwhelming sadness, a sudden memory of one time in high school when I slipped to the country club docks at midnight with my friends, and, giggling, naked, we went into the dark star-stippled water, and swam to the middle of the lake. We treaded water there in the blackness, all of us fallen silent in the feeling of swimming in such perfect space. I looked up and began to spin. The stars streaked circular above me, my body was wrapped in the warm black, my hands had disappeared, my stomach was no longer, I was only a head, a pair of eyes. As I touched the beast I remembered how, even on that long-ago night, I could feel a tremendous thing moving in the depths below me, something vast and white and singing.

Excerpted from THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by LAUREN GROFF. Copyright (c) 2008 LAUREN GROFF. All rights reserved. Published by VOICE, an imprint of Hyperion.

What People are Saying About This

Stephen King

Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, is everything a reader might have expected from this gifted writer, and more...Best of all is Templeton, a town that will remind readers of Ray Bradbury at his most magical. There are monsters, murders, bastards, and ne'er-do-wells almost without number. I was sorry to see this rich and wonderful novel come to an end, and there is no higher success than that.

Lauren Belfer

In The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff has crafted a multi-layered story that is boldly inventive and surprising, by turns wistful, elegiac, and sweeping. (Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light)

Lorrie Moore

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.


A Message from Lauren Groff

Though The Monsters of Templeton is my first novel to appear in the world, it wasn't the first I'd ever written. Actually, if you ask most writers, I think they'd admit to having a drawerful of bruised and battered manuscripts somewhere, beloved little freaks that take up more space in the writer's heart than they probably should. I'd been writing "novels" since I was in college: one very bad retelling of the Abélard and Heloïse myth (that, years later, transformed itself into a very different short story); one strange transfiguration of Paradise Lost, a theme I still continuously circle; and multiple complicated drafts of a novel about a handless, mouthless, pregnant young woman that owed a lot to fairy tales and Gabriel García Marquéz, bless his heart.

By the time I was ready to write The Monsters of Templeton, I was living in California, so far from my hometown that I woke up every morning still dreaming of it. Cooperstown -- where I was born and raised -- is a gorgeous hamlet in the middle of nowhere, blessed with fantastic beauty (a glacial nine-and-a-half mile lake, rolling hills, antique houses), a tight-knit community, and a world-class opera and many great museums. In the midst of the sunlight and striving of the Bay Area, I only wanted to go home. So, in order to spend time every day in Cooperstown, I decided that in my next novel my town would be a main character, itself, and would change throughout the eras.

The only other thing that I knew about the book came from an odd little occurrence that happened to me years ago: when my sister was fourteen, she swam our lake and beat the record for doing so, and the next year I, the older sister, decided I had to swim it and beat her time. So one foggy, dark predawn morning, my dad hopped into a kayak and I set off behind him. For the first five miles, I was swimming along happily when, suddenly, the sun appeared over the hills -- and as soon as that happened, the lake just seemed to kindle, to glow from within. By then I was pretty tired -- low blood-sugar, oxygen deprivation, what have you -- and suddenly saw a very odd creature keeping pace below me. I looked harder; and I realized that the creature was very, very deep. Only then did I realize that if it was so deep the creature had to be enormous.

Believe this story or not: I'm not sure myself how I feel about it, actually. But that morning instead of the normal reaction -- paralyzing fear -- I felt a lightness in me, a joy that carried me through the last miles, onto the dock, and throughout the intervening years (my sister's time, drats!, only two minutes faster).

With these ideas -- Cooperstown, scope, lightness, joy -- in mind, I spent a year researching and reading everything I could get my paws on, then began to write. At the end of three years I had completely different drafts, all with radically diverse structures. The manuscript evolved from a collection of six loosely connected novellas, to a story told by a ghost, to a story told by Willie as a boy, to the final story, told by Willie the girl, with the sudden surprising insertion of the lake monster. I'd always intended for the feel of that lake monster to be in the story: but (maybe because I'd read Moby Dick in the midst of that chapter) the monster wanted most desperately to become actual and, to my surprise and delight, imposed itself on the tale. --Lauren Groff

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The Monsters of Templeton 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 200 reviews.
p90xer More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. It has history, mystery, scandal, etc. It is a first novel for the author and I noticed she did some research to write the book. In the end, it took me almost a year to finish it. I read lots of other books, but this one dragged on. I had more interest in Clarissa, Willie's best friend, than I did with Willie. Save your money for a really great book and borrow this one from a friend or the library.
OHARADN More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. I too wanted to love it as it had maney elements I enjoy in a good story. The author left too many strings hanging. I was immensly disappointed with the (non) resolution to the legends/history of the "monster" /the lost girls. The writting style and flow was good and might lead me to try this author again but, in this book I felt most of her story lines hit a brick wall or just fell off the cliff with no satifactory resolution.
BrandyAlexanderr More than 1 year ago
A little disappointing. The writing style was unique, but the characters were not well developed and the plot was a little dull. All of a sudden BOOM! and the book was over. It took me longer than usual to finish this. I wouldn't recommend it.
PollyA46 More than 1 year ago
Loved the history, mystery and especially the fact that is was based on a geographical area very close to home. The writer really knows how to keep you engaged. The ending was a real surprise. Great for book club discussion. I would definitely read another book by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book just didn't catch my attention. I had to force myself to finish it. Not very good in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is slow and complicated. It does not keep the reader's attention .
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I really did enjoy the storyline and the way it blended the past with the present, at times I felt that it was a bit disjointed. The beginning and the ending were interesting reads while the middle seemed to drag at times.
lindenstein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Monsters of Templeton is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Groff's characters are really unique and dynamic, and the changing points of view throughout the book offer an original look at the narrative. The story, the characters, and the writing make you want to keep reading the book, and when the story is over you wish it was just getting started. The dynamic character of the city of Templeton is as integral to the story as the characters, and they all work together to create a piece of great fiction!I would definitely recommend this book to friends and family, to anyone who is interested in histories, and to anyone who loves a good read. I met Lauren Groff at a book reading recently and she is really nice; I hope that she continues to write with the same caliber of characters and stories that she gave here. The author is much like the story: down-to-earth and approachable.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Willhemina Upton, a descendant of Marmaduke Temple, the founder of her hometown of Templeton, returns home to lick her wounds following a disastrous affair with her professor. On the day of her arrival, the dead body of the monster of Templeton, known as Glimmey is found in lake Glimmerglass, confirming rumors more than two centuries old as to it¿s existence. Willie finds refuge in her ancestral family home with her mother Vi, a born again Baptist, after having been a hippie for the better part of her life. Willie, having always accepted her mother¿s story about having had sex with three men at the commune she lived in at seventeen is surprised when Vi informs her that her father is a resident of Templeton and also a descendant of Marmaduke Temple, though she refuses to tell her who the man is, which prompts Willie to embark on a search through the family tree to find her father. We¿re introduced to the cast of characters that are her ancestors through various written documents and also from their own voices. Little by little, as Willie keeps digging she uncovers one family secret after another along with a few other monsters.I found the story interesting and enjoyed visiting the past of this fictional town. It¿s clear Groff had to do extensive research for the novel and it paid off, though I can't say I found very much to connect with in this story.
Maebsly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of this book or the author before, but the back cover sounded interesting so I picked it up. I was surprised! It's not a profound, life changing book but it is really fun to read.I love how the story of a woman returns to her hometown and searches her family tree for secrets to the identity of her father is presented with letters, diary excerpts, etc. The "what I know so far" charts were helpful because if I put the book down for any length of time I had to reference them to keep the relatives straight. The portraits of the relatives were a fun addition. Ms. Groff is an intelligent writer with good descriptive qualities. While reading, I had a good feel for the town. Her characters are well-developed with a certain depth and I found myself caring about what happened to them, even though I was not crazy about the main character (I felt she was spoiled and somewhat immature). There are a lot of interesting personalities in this book! I liked the monster of the lake, but I'm not sure why the ghost was in the story.The only (tiny, minor) criticism I have is I wish the ancestor's letters and journal entries had a voice of their own. The more recent relatives often had the same manner of speaking as the ones from two hundred years ago (exceptions apply). But this does not really detract from the story at all. I really enjoyed this book, lots of fun! I will definitely be seeking more books by this talented writer.
CalStas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poorly advertised and so not what I wanted to read at the time. I didn't realized that apart from one dead monster on the first page the, "monsters" of Templeton would be typical chick-lit (I can say that w/o sounding sexist because I'm a chick) metaphorical monsters. Booooring! While the book has its merits and I'm a James Fenimore Cooper fan, I rated it low for wasting my time with false pretenses.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second novel I've read by Lauren Groff, and maybe I enjoyed it slightly less that Arcadia, but that's a good thing - Arcadia was written after this, so she's growing as a writer. Also promising is the fact that even though I might have liked this less, it's still a 4 Star. That says something about my opinion of Groff's writing.In Monsters of Templeton, Groff's protagonist heads home to recover from a messy affair. To get her mind off her problems her mother drops a bombshell on her - the story about who her father might be was a total fabrication. Her father is in fact, someone in the very town her family founded. From there, the book goes into part detective, part historical fiction and does it wonderfully. The cast of characters is great and the story moves along quickly. Even though there are a number of characters jumping and out, they're easy to keep track of - probably one of the biggest challenges.
afyfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, although I'm not sure if everyone would like it. It is based around a girl who comes back to her small town and learns that some things she thought to be true were not. It was a little hard to start, but if you keep reading it does become very interesting. I also thought some of the chapters about her ancestors and the history of the town were very slow and I couldn't always follow who they were talking about and how they were related to the main character. I was also hoping for more tie ins with the monster, but he really only was talked about in the beginning and the end. Although some parts were hard to get through when I finished the book I felt very satisfied and had nothing but good thoughts about it. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is up for a very different kind of book and willing to take the slow paced chapters with the fast paced ones.
anneofia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I felt that the novel as a whole was highly flawed, the story itself, with the historical background set in Cooperstown (renamed Templeton), New York, is very well done. I was never able to warm up to the main character, Willie - she just wasn't very likeable. She has made a lot of mistakes and doesn't seem to learn from them. At the end of the book I got the impression that she would go on with her life making the same mistakes all over again. Her mother, Vi, while also somewhat immature, has learned something from past mistakes and is trying to make the future better. The people from the town's past come across as much more interesting than the modern ones. Their stories are fascinating, and it's interesting how Groff has each narrate his or her own part of the story. The story is original and I really loved the Cooperstown background. I remember being a tourist in Cooperstown, and the author's references to the Farmer's Museum, Baseball Hall of Fame, etc. were just as I remembered it.
taramatchi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am not sure why, but I loved this quirky novel. It is about an idealistic town and the cast of quirky and somewhat strange characters that inhabited it since it was founded. The underlined premise was a girl who wanted to find out who her father was and as she researches the past she finds out more about herself and the town she wanted to get away from.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Willie Upton, a PhD student, returns home following the end of an affair with her profesor. While there, her mother admits for the first time that Wilie's father is a citizen of their small town. Willie reseaches her family's past in an attempt to discover who her father is. This book is a blend of many types of stories. It is part magical realism with a ghost and a Loch Ness type monster in a lake. It has a large dose of historical fiction, and is also partly a modern day story of relationships.Along with the blend of types of stories, there is a large cast of characters, both modern and historical. I found myself drawn into the many individual stories. The author has done a good job of linking them together in a very ambitious plot.
bellalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well-written! Groff attacks her story from so many angles that I'm sometimes not sure of the quickest way to describe it; yet, I can surely say that it is incredibly well-written. "Willie" reluctantly returns home to Templeton (Cooperstown) after a love affair gone wrong while in Alaska working on her Ph. D. The very same day that Willie returns home, an incredibly large monster is found dead in the lake near her home. In addition to the mystery of the monster found in the lake, Willie is confronted with the mystery of the identity of her father. (This puts the lake monster on the backburner for awhile.) Willie puts her schooling to work and unearths numerous finds regarding the founding fathers of her hometown. Ghosts, murder, monsters, ancestry, and a wonderful way with words!
Alie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written book. It combines the history of a town as well as a twisted and intriguing family history. It is a captivating story that has a hint of science fiction (monsters) that I didn't expect, but very much enjoyed. The book is definitely a page turner, and when I finished I wished that the book wasn't over.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Generations of Templeton, New York residents (and all their deeds) are illuminated in the research of the most recent member of the Temple/Averill family, Wilie Upton, to find the identity of her father. Part historical novel, part a discussion of place (Templeton is a thinly veiled Cooperstown, NY), part study on the human condition, Groff pulls in the reader, who is as eager to discover the identity of the mysterious father as Willie. Throw in the discovery of the town's "lake monster," and the book is quite a literary fantasy!
MissMermaid118 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! This one is really different! A little bit ghost story, a little bit coming of age, a bit more commentary on modern life, and a lot of historical fiction. A woman searches through her family and town's history in an effort to identify the father she has never known. The chapters on frontier history are especially fascinating. The heroine seems immature for pushing 30, but that's where the "coming of age" part comes in. She does grow up! All in all, an entertaining and compelling read. I'm looking forward to more by this author.
sparemethecensor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the fantastical elements of this -- they are subtle, but they're there and they add a lot of depth. I liked the whole monster subplot, and I really liked the letters she found that imply that one of her ancestors could set fires with her mind. It was woven in so perfectly!I really liked the first third or so of the book, but as it went on, I found myself thinking, "Okay, let's get on with it already." I thought the author had trouble sustaining the momentum of the first part of the book as it went on and the plot was "continue researching" and "continue thinking about the professor and her best friend" rather than having some action. I did generally like it, though.
Grendelschoice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First¿time novelist creates a lovely story about the long reach of afamily tree in a small town in upstate New York. Complete with aLoch-Ness¿like lake monster and lots of gentle humor.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not a bad novel. Unusual construction with lots of different narrative points of view. Relatively unique characters. All of which should work, but somehow it seemed forced and self-conscious. As if the author was trying really, really hard to stand out from the crowd and create a manuscript that would generate `buzz¿. My not knowing much about James Fenimore Cooper, his work or Cooperstown probably made many an inside joke go unnoticed, which was my loss I suppose.Despite that, it was a pleasant story. Willie¿s search for her father meant she had to do a lot of research in the archives of the local history museum and it was fun to watch her piece things together. The voyeuristic thrill of reading old letters and diaries was fun, too. It¿s always great when a long-buried secret comes to life. Besides hearing from these long-dead people, we have narratives from the present day. Of course Willie and her mother have their own story; I feel as if their relationship was made weirder than it needed to be. Willie herself seems remarkably immature and sheltered as well. The Running Buds were a stranger construction. Ostensibly they are a group of residents who run together every morning like clockwork. Their collective narrative, couched in terms of we and us, but yet calling out members by name, served to me as the voice and conscience of Templeton itself. Much like the monster, the information itself that was given during the narrative wasn¿t as important as why it was given and the role it filled. Pretentious? Certainly, but it worked.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know what I expected from this book but it certainly wasn't what I did expect. It is tough to give a plot outline on this as the story is revealed slowly throughout the course of the book and I won't give anything away. It is also a very unusual story. On the surface, it is the story of a young woman, Willie, who comes home to her small town, which her family has lived in for generations. In fact, they founded it and it is named after the founding family, the Temples. After arriving, she finds out that her mother has lied to her about her father, he is not an unknown hippie from her mother's flower power days but is instead a member of the town, someone she knows. This sets Willie to researching the town's family tree to find out who her father really is. Chapters alternate with Willie's point of view and personages from the past. This is really a story of a town and secrets that lay buried in everyone's past. I really became caught up in Willie's search and I loved the generational story of a town. But there is also a small supernatural element hiding behind the normalcy. Yes, there is a monster. There is also a ghost and another paranormal activity is revealed also. This is a very unusual tale, of which I don't think I've ever read the like. The story telling is masterfully and purposefully written. It gripped me from the opening pages to the very satisfying conclusion. Lauren Groff is an author I'll be watching.
rdjanssen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Monsters of Templeton is a modern fiction book. It is neither horror nor science fiction which is why I am confused as to why I first became aware of this book (and consequently bought and read this book) through the Science Fiction Book Club.The book is purported to be full of villains, dark secrets, and nare-do-wells. While the book does have more than its fair share of these elements, most of them have been left to history and it is through the investigation and research of the main character that these events and personalities come to light.Wilhelmina Upton returns home to Templeton from college after some personal indiscretions with her professor. Seeking solace at her childhood home her mother throws another curveball at her: her father, whom she never knew, was alive and a resident of Templeton. Rather than saying who he is Willie¿s mother gives her one clue about his identity, something to do with his ancestry. The main bulk of the book follows Willie in her search through the local library and other historical documents for information on the identity of her father. Through her research she discovers that the town of Templeton had an unsavory past replete with murders, rape, bastards, and houses of ill repute. I enjoyed the book to some degree and it did have some deeper meanings such as appearances versus substance, but it wasn¿t the book I wanted it to be. Perhaps that¿s a fault of the marketing plan (or the reader), but it wasn¿t a book I would talk about to my wife while I was reading.