Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Julie's Review: The Monsters of Templeton

Summary: "The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, thefifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass." So beginsThe Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part acontemporary story of a girl's search for her father, part historical novel, andpart ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one townholds the secrets of a family. In the wake of a wildly disastrousaffair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on thedoorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton, New York, where herhippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mom, Vi, still lives. Willie expects to be ableto hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but themonster's death changes the fabric of the quiet, picture-perfect town herancestors founded. Even further, Willie learns that the story her mother hadalways told her about her father has all been a lie: he wasn't the random manfrom a free-love commune that Vi had led her to imagine, but someone elseentirely. Someone from this very town. As Willie puts her archaeological skills to work digging forthe truth about her lineage, she discovers that the secrets of her family rundeep. Through letters, editorials, and journal entries, the dead rise up to telltheir 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 onemonster is revealed.

Review: It took me a while to get through this book and while much of it had to do with the busy Holiday season, I think some it also had to do with the fact that I didn't fall in love with or identify with any of the characters. The main character, Willie was flawed but seemed 2 dimensional to me. I never really felt any depth coming from her. Her mother Vi was trying to change her life by finding religion and all that Willie could do was mock her. While I do realize it went against everything Vi had ever done in her past, it was nice to see that someone could evolve into a different person and find a place where they felt they belong and I don't think it was right for Willie to judge her mother, especially since Willie wasn't exactly in a righteous place herself.
The real essence of the story to me is about finding out who you are through your family history. While I found most of this interesting, I also found parts of it confusing as she searches for her father and how he might be a part of the same blood line. Now as twisted as that sounds, Ms. Groff does wrap it up in such a way that it's not as twisted as it seemed at first.
The lake monster, Glimmey, I think is representative of what Willie is feeling when she gets there and when she leaves. I am curious to know what Ms. Groff based the monster on, was it Loch Ness or some other "known" beast? I have no doubt that she did her homework on this part of the novel. In fact, I think a tremendous amount of research went into novel as a whole. Any time you are exploring family history, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, you have to keep your facts straight and she did an excellent job of that.
I did figure out one of the twists in the book but the other one took me completely off guard and was just as surprised as one of the characters in the book when the revelation came.
For a first book, I have to say Ms. Groff weaves a very good story, even if at parts it was slow and dragged a bit. The best part for me was the last 1/4 of the book when the story started to come together. I don't know if it's a book I would have picked up off the shelf to read myself, but I'm glad to get the opportunity to read an up and coming author. And now that I've read her, I will keep my eye out for her other novels and I wish her success.
Final Take: 3.75/5


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