Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Monsters of Templeton

Those of us who grow up in small town America often cannot wait to escape those towns. We tend to head for the big city as soon as we can, hoping to create a new life, one where we can carve ourselves into images of the people we have always dreamed of becoming. But it is to the comfort of those same small towns that we return to recharge our batteries if things in the big city do not go our way.

That is exactly why Willie Upton found herself reluctantly sneaking back into Templeton, New York, early enough one morning that she hoped to make it to her old bedroom without being noticed. She had no other place to go and she hated to admit that to herself. All she knew was that she had probably burned her bridges at Stanford University forever and that she needed a place to hide.

But it was not going to be that simple because, in Templeton (loosely based on the author’s hometown of Cooperstown), Willie Upton was somebody, a direct descendent of the town’s founder, an historical link with the past and someone in whom the whole town seemed to take great pride. And Willie had failed to consider the reception that she was going to receive from her mother, the former ‘60s flower child who had, unbeknownst to Willie, recently become a born-again Baptist. Willie would simply not be allowed to sit around the house nursing her wounds or to hide in her bedroom.

Sensing that what her daughter needed to get her through her crisis was a project to give her some focus, Vivienne let slip that Willie was really not the product of the free love that her mother had experienced in a San Francisco commune. Rather, she was the result of a Templeton one-night stand and her real father lived within walking distance of her. Refusing to name him, Vivienne offered Willie only one vague clue as to her father’s identity but that was just enough to set Willie off on a quest through her family tree as she attempted to find the father she had never known.

The Monsters of Templeton is a remarkable first novel that will appeal to history buffs, mystery lovers, and fans of good writing alike. Lauren Groff lets many of Willie Upton’s ancestors tell their own stories, with whole chapters written in their individual voices, and she manages to give each of them a distinct and unique personality. Some of them are likable, others not, and it soon becomes apparent that there are more monsters in this story than the one that dies in the town’s deep lake on the same morning that Willie comes home.

Even though this novel will not be published until February 2008, I don’t think that it is too early to put it on your “to be read” list. I have been meaning to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, for several years now and, when I finally do get there, I will not be able to keep myself from thinking about the fictional Templeton and all of Willie Upton’s amazing ancestors. It will be a little like coming home.

Rated at: 4.0


  1. Wow, sounds interesting. I'm always up for something appeals to history buffs and mystery lovers. Thanks for the review :)

  2. Huh, this sounds surprisingly interesting even though it isn't my usual genre. Neat! It sounds like such an unusual and fun little plot.

    As for me, I would never go back to the small towns where I grew up. I'd happily live in some other small towns, but not the ones where I grew up.

    My favorite places to live, though, have been ones where it's fairly rural, yet I'm close enough to civilization to easily go to a movie, buy unusual groceries, or find a big bookstore!

  3. Looks very interesting. Being from a small town myself, I usually love books like this.


  4. Gentle Reader, I think you'll really like this one. I didn't mention all the photos that give it a "non-fiction" kind of feel. It's really nicely done.

  5. Heather, you hit the nail on the head. While I don't think that I could ever live again in the small town in which I grew up, I do find myself sometimes yearning for a return to a small town lifestyle. Weird...

  6. 3M, check it out when you have a chance because I do think that you'll enjoy the thing.

  7. Pretty cover! My mom's from a small town in upstate NY (Lancaster), so this one sounds interesting.

  8. I think you'll feel very comfortable with this one, Eva.

  9. Argh!! No fair, I want to get it NOW.


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