The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff is a mystery filled with rogues and monsters. She has created a place loosely based it on her home town of Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and of JamesFenimore Cooper. She says in her introduction: This story saw history as malleable and tried for a different kind of truth about my little village on the lake, one filled with all the mystery and magic that I was surrounded by in my childhood.
Willie Upton comes home to try and put her life back on track and is told by her Mother that her Dad was not some fellow living and loving in a San Fransisco hippie house but a man from her home town. Willie is given the task of tracing the history of the main families of Templeton to figure out who that man is. At the same time a monster has been found in Lake Glimmerglass and the small town is overrun with TV trucks and sightseers.
Groff has woven the town’s history with interesting characters, and moves back and forth in time. These characters are varied and wonderful, some lovable, some monstrous. I found some of these voices much more solid, real and interesting than others. The idea of Willie searching through the town’s history is a lovely one but I found it somewhat diluted by the multiple threads of the of her story. At times I felt Groff was trying to cram too much into one novel. It feels choppy, overstuffed. I did enjoyed the book and look forward to reading her collection of short stories, Delicate Edible Birds.
Some of the characters’ thoughts:
Willie Upton, page 126: The week after the monster left, Templeton slipped into August. We all dreamt of the beast, its long-fingered hands, its delicate neck. We imagined ourselves lodged in its ancient brain, saw the dark water before us as it swam so fast in the cold depths. The leaf-thin shimmy of the moon through all that water. The glacier still melting slowly at the bottom of the lake, glowing phosphorescent blue. Those who loved Templeton felt the monster’s loss like a phantom limb, still aching.
From Hetty Averell, page 121: Duke goes to the door with those two behind him. I put my eyes on him, I like his looks. Red hair under all that powder. Tall, built like a bull. Good dark clothes like Quaker clothes, but I know he’s no real Quaker because no Quaker buys slaves. So I burn my eyes on him. He feels it. Turns around, slow-slow, looks at me. Got my shirt off and the men are examining my breast and my teeth and they are beautiful and my skin is shining like water.
From Davey Shipman, page 152: Now, though, Sagamore emerged from the hut, his face creased. Hear that? he said in Delaware, and I listened but said no. What is it? I said, but Duke had lost his angry face and was nodding respectfully to my friend. How do you do Chief Chingachgook, he said which was what the whites called Sagamore. Though I hated the man I liked him a small bit for greeting my old friend with respect.