AUTHOR: Lauren Groff
STARTED: April 8, 2008
FINISHED: April 14, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: The day I returned to Templeton in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] One dark summer dawn, at the exact moment that an enormous monster dies in Lake Glimmerglass, twenty-eight-year-old Willie (nee Wilhemina) Upton returns to her hometown of Templeton, NY in disgrace. She expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but Willie then learns that the story her mom, Vi, had always told her about her father has all been a lie. He wasn't the one-night stand Vi had led her to imagine, but someone else entirely. Someone from this very town.
As Willie digs for the truth about her lineage, voices from the town's past — both sinister and disturbing — rise up around her to tell their sides of the story. In the end, dark secrets come to light, past and present blur, old mysteries are finally put to rest, and the surprising truth about more than one monster is revealed.THOUGHTS: It is impossible for me to be objective about this book. I LOVED it, but that probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up in Templeton... or at least Cooperstown, Groff's inspiration for Templeton. Therefore, not only did I recognize the locations and quarks of the book's settings, but I also recognized several of the characters (my old neighbor!). So, I was going to love this book no matter what. Groff stated in numerous interviews that her goal in writing this book was to write a love letter to Cooperstown. She succeeded marvelously. I don't often miss my hometown, but this book made me yearn to go back for a visit.
The core of this book is its setting. Cooperstown is not just a location, it is a character. It has flaws and emotions, like any other protagonist. Groff has somehow managed to strip the small town aura from Cooperstown while recreating it at the same time. The Monsters of Templeton is pure essence. It reads in emotions and details. Groff's writing is utterly addictive. The prose has an old-style feeling to it. There is a fresh crispness and lyrical texture to the words Groff choses. The way she structures the book, in vignettes, highlights her experience with the short story genre. Each chapter takes on a different tone but, somehow, the whole story flows together with one voice.
The story Groff crafts in Monsters seems almost secondary to her writing and setting. The characters are there, and the story is more than entertaining, but these facets pale in comparison to the structure and location of her book. I've never experience a book like this, where I loved the writing more than I liked the plot and the main characters. Despite this, Groff is a talented writer. Her characters have multiple layers of emotion and clearly have history behind them. I would not be opposed to a reading a book by Groff that tells the whole story of one of her secondary characters.
Oddly enough, the character I liked the least was Willie... the protagonist. She's selfish and whiny. Groff writes her in such a way, however, that all the other characters call Willie on her flaws. In fact, Monsters would not work as a narrative if Willie was not written in this way.
The main negative comment I have on Groff's work is that she is so intensely into her characters that she tries to cram in too much material. Groff clearly loves the world she has (re)created. So much so that it is apparent that she would loathe leaving anything out. Despite this, I early anticipate Groff's next work.
RATING: 9/10 [Excellent.]