Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: james fenimoore cooper, lauren groff, monsters of templeton, quotes, tribute novel
“Sometimes, we feel it’s impossible to push into the future without such a weight behind us, without such heaviness to keep us steady, even if its imaginary. And the more frightening the future is, the more complicated it seems to be, the more we steady ourselves with the past.”
Mys Ebrel suggested The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff to me ages ago and though I promptly requested it from my library it took until fairly recently to obtain what seems to be the lone copy floating around the county. The Monsters of Tempelton is an alluring and tantalizing book that sets out with a gargantuan and multi-layered idea that Groff explores most beautifully. While reading it, my co-workers kept remarking that they remembered the cover and asked how it was and I said it was pretty terrific and ten minutes later still found myself stumbling through an attempt at a plot summary.
First, this is a book about James Fenimoore Cooper and inspired by Groff’s hometown of Cooperstown. And like Cooper, Groff realized that the fiction of the book was becoming somewhat overwhelming and changed the names to protect the innocent (as James did himself) and renamed the town and literary character to Templeton. Coming back home to this town is our hero Willie Upton who is a direct descendant of the literary Temple and has lived under this weight her entire life. However, Willie’s returning home after a terrible escapade on an archaeological dig in the Alaskan tundra and seeks out her hometown and mother for comfort and solace. While visiting, Willie finds out her father is not who she thinks he is and spends the book reacquainting herself with her hometown and her family.
Did I also mention from page one a lake monster is pulled out of local Lake Glimmerglass?
With remarkable skill, Groff overlays multiple stories in this genealogical search of fatherhood. Punctuating the main story line are testimonies from Willie’s long dead relatives, pictures of said relatives, and the odd family tree to help the reader stay abreast of Willie’s discoveries. The book explores myth and folklore, discovering long forgotten secrets, and the cost of divulging the truth. The Monsters of Templeton is cleverly woven together and I found myself always anticipating Willie’s next discovery. Groff also has a terrific sense of humor. Definitely an enjoyable read if you’re searching for something to pick up.