Monday, December 1, 2008

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

"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 archaeology 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.

I had this book on my MP3 player for about 3 months before I got around to listening to it. It sounded interesting, but I generally shy away from monsters and ghost stories. They aren't my preferred subject matter. The monster and the ghost play fairly minor roles in the story, and I ended up liking both of them.

As the jacket flap info above says, this story moves from the present to different points in the past as the narrator's ancestors tell their stories through journal entries and letters. I usually really enjoy stories told in the present and past, but this one seemed a little slow in some of the historical settings. Also, I listened to this one instead of reading it. There were a few times that I was unsure which characters was even speaking in the historical parts. There may have been a font change to indicate the speaker, but unfortunately, this is lost in the audio version. There were also quite a few ancestors to keep track of as they told their stories and I admit I didn't retain much of who was related to who.

The narrator, however, was wonderful. The main character, Willie, has a sarcastic sense of humor, which I love, and the narrator had her tone down perfectly. My only complaint with the CD version was that was some strange music about 2/3 through each of the sections. At first I thought it signaled a change from present to the past, but that wasn't always the case.

This was the first book that I read by Groff, but I will be looking for more. The characters were all very well done and by the end of the book I felt like I really knew them all.


Lenore Appelhans said...

This one is definitely on my radar.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Great review, the characters sound very intriguing. I will definitely check out this book.

Ania said...

I listened to this one on audio, too! It was definitely the first sentence that got me interested (and the cover illustration!), but unlike you I was actually hoping it would be a bit more supernatural. It was a good story, though - offbeat and original - and I look forward to her next book which, off the top of my head, I believe is called Delicate, Edible Birds.

Sandra said...

I'm seeing this book mentioned a lot. I will have to try it. Her next title sounds intriguing too.