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The Monsters of Templeton

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Overview

In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in storybook Templeton, New York, looking to hide in the one place to which she swore she'd never come back. As soon as she arrives, though, a prehistoric monster surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass, changing the very fabric of the town. What's more, Willie's hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mother, Vi, tells her a secret she's been hiding for nearly thirty years: that Willie's ...

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Overview

In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in storybook Templeton, New York, looking to hide in the one place to which she swore she'd never come back. As soon as she arrives, though, a prehistoric monster surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass, changing the very fabric of the town. What's more, Willie's hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mother, Vi, tells her a secret she's been hiding for nearly thirty years: that Willie's father wasn't the random man from a free-love commune that Vi had led her to imagine, but someone else entirely. Someone from this very town. As Willie puts her archaeological skills to work digging for the truth about her lineage, she discovers that the secrets of her family run deep when past and present blur, dark mysteries come to light, and the shocking truth about more than one monster is revealed.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Denver Post
"Lauren Groff hits a home run in her first at-bat, with a novel that is intriguingly constructed and compulsively readable."
Entertainment Weekly
"Groff's multilayered saga both thrills and delights with poignant, breathtaking prose. A"
San Francisco Chronicle
"THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON, a fascinating first novel by Lauren Groff, is a book with joy in its marrow--fabulous."
Stephen King
"Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, is everything a reader might have expected from this gifted writer, and more. Willie is a funny, sexy, plucky heroine; her Mom--a once-upon-a-time hippie who's gone Baptist but not square--is a hoot; her family history is a funhouse through which Willie must wander in order to find her father. Best of all is Templeton, a town that will remind readers of Ray Bradbury at his most magical. There are monsters, murders, bastards, and ne'er-do-wells almost without number. I was sorry to see this rich and wonderful novel come to an end, and there is no higher success than that."
From the Publisher
"Groff's multilayered saga both thrills and delights with poignant, breathtaking prose. A"—Entertainment Weekly

"THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON, a fascinating first novel by Lauren Groff, is a book with joy in its marrow—fabulous."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, is everything a reader might have expected from this gifted writer, and more. Willie is a funny, sexy, plucky heroine; her Mom—a once-upon-a-time hippie who's gone Baptist but not square—is a hoot; her family history is a funhouse through which Willie must wander in order to find her father. Best of all is Templeton, a town that will remind readers of Ray Bradbury at his most magical. There are monsters, murders, bastards, and ne'er-do-wells almost without number. I was sorry to see this rich and wonderful novel come to an end, and there is no higher success than that."—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

"Lauren Groff hits a home run in her first at-bat, with a novel that is intriguingly constructed and compulsively readable."—Denver Post

Publishers Weekly

Groff's tale of a young woman searching for her true identity through old letters, journals and articles is a vivid portrait of the past and present, but Nicole Roberts's delivery is far too stolid and contrived to bring the material to life. As if reading a teleprompter, Roberts sounds more like a news anchor, slightly disconnected from the material and doing her best to make it sound important. At times she races through the story at breakneck pace, at others she reads painfully slow as if reading to a group of uninterested first graders. While her pitch is clear, her tone is almost plastic and fake, making the story so dreary and unimaginative that most listeners will be immediately turned off. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 26, 2007). (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Twenty-eight-year-old Willie Upton has just detonated a promising academic career by her scandalous affair with a married professor. Now pregnant, she slinks home to Templeton, NY, just as an enormous dead monster is pulled from nearby Lake Glimmerglass. There, Willie's mother, a former hippie, admits she has always lied about Willie's paternity and discloses this one clue about her biological father's actual identity: he is a descendant of Judge Marmaduke Temple and currently a prominent member of Templeton. Sound familiar? Pay attention: James Fenimore Cooper is from Cooperstown, NY (as is Groff) and used it as the model for Templeton, NY, setting of The Pioneers. Yes, Groff has daringly used Cooper's Templeton and its inhabitants as the launching pad for Willie's search for her father. Willie takes her mother's clue and pulls on it, following endless strands to get her answer, all the while tormented with indecision about her own pregnancy. Liberally peppered with old photographs, diary entries, letters, and a family tree constantly in need of revision as Willie eliminates one possibility after another spanning more than two centuries of shocking Templeton history, this is an irresistible adventure. Highly recommended.
—Beth E. Andersen

Kirkus Reviews
Cooperstown, N.Y., and its most famous native son provide first-time novelist Groff with much of the grist for this sprawling tale of a young woman searching for her father. In The Pioneers, James Fenimore Cooper rechristened his (and Groff's) hometown as Templeton; she not only adopts the name, but grafts her protagonist onto the family tree of a character from the novel, Judge Marmaduke Temple. Grad student Willie Upton slinks back into Templeton in the summer of 2002 just as the corpse of a mysterious, 50-foot creature surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass. She's had a disastrous affair with a married professor and isn't sure she can go back to Stanford, Willie tells her feisty single mother. Vi, who always claimed not to know which member of her San Francisco commune knocked her up in 1973, has a surprise of her own. In truth, Willie's father lives in Templeton and doesn't even know he has a daughter. Vi won't tell Willie his name, but (implausibly) drops a big hint. Like Vi, Willie's dad is descended from Judge Temple, who apparently scattered illegitimate children across the 18th-century landscape. As Willie hunts through old documents for clues to her parentage, the voices of generations of Templeton residents mingle with those of such archetypal Cooper creations as Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook in a narrative that winds through 250 years of American history. The secrets uncovered include murder, arson, poisonous intra-family rivalries and the exploitation of slaves and Native Americans. The leviathan pulled out of the lake seems less of a monster than some of Templeton's respectable founders. Willie and other contemporary citizens are far nicer; readers will be pleased when the likableheroine meets her father, reconciles with Vi and forms a tentative new relationship with a decent guy. But there seem to be two novels here, and they don't fit together terribly well. Flawed, but commendably ambitious and stuffed with ideas-many of them not well developed, but inspiring hope for a more disciplined second effort from this talented newcomer. Agent: Bill Clegg/William Morris Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401340926
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 11/4/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 237,793
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, New York, from which she draws inspiration for this novel. She has a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her short stories have appeared in several literary publications, including The Atlantic Monthly and Ploughshares, and she has won fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. She is currently the Axton Fellow in Fiction at the University of Louisville.

Good To Know

Many-if not most-of my ancestors are Mennonite or Amish, all Pennsylvania Dutch-my grandfather still can speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and there's a Groffdale in Lancaster County filled with people who look curiously like me.

I spent a year between high school and college as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Nantes, France-mostly in the house of a family with a catering business (when I returned from France, I'd gained so much weight that my parents didn't recognize me at first in the airport).

My sister Sarah is an elite triathlete, fourth in the US, trying to make the an Olympic berth for Beijing this summer. She's definitely my hero.

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    1. Hometown:
      Gainesville, FL, USA
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 23, 1978
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cooperstown, NY, USA
    1. Education:
      BA English and French Literature, Amherst College, 201: MFA in Fiction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
    2. Website:

First Chapter

THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON

Chapter 1

HOMECOMING

The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass. It was one of those strange purple dawns that color July there, when the bowl made by the hills fills with a thick fog and even the songbirds sing timorously, unsure of day or night.

The fog was still deep when Dr. Cluny found the monster on his morning row. I imagine how it went: the slide of the scull's knife across the lake, the oar heads casting rings on the water, the red bow light pulsing into the dark. Then, sudden, looming over the doctor's shoulder, an island where there had never before been an island, the vast belly of the dead beast. Gliding backward, the old doctor couldn't see it. He neared; the bow-ball of his boat pushed into the rubbery flesh like a finger into a balloon; the pressure of boat versus skin reached a tensile limit without piercing anything; the boat checked its bow-ward motion, and jerked to stern. The doctor turned, but he was prepared only for the possible, and didn't at first know what was before him. When he saw the large and terrible eye still milking over with death, the good doctor blinked. And then he fainted.

When Dr. Cluny came to, the dawn had thinned, the water was shot with bars of light, and he found himself rowing around and around the bellied-up beast, weeping. In his mouth there was the sweet burn of horehound candy, the exact savor of his long-ago childhood. Only when a seagull landed upon the flat chin of the leviathan and bent to steal a taste did Dr. Cluny return to himself; only then did he skid back over the water to the awakening town, shouting his news.

"Miracle," he called. "Miracle. Come, quick, see."

At that precise moment, I was idling in the park across the street from Averell Cottage, my childhood home. For at least an hour, I had been standing in the depression that the town flooded in winter to make a skating rink, gathering what courage I could. The fog veiled my grand, awkward house, with its original cottage from 1793, one wing from Victorian 1890, and another from the tasteless 1970s, turning the whole into something more coherent, almost beautiful. In my delirium, I thought I could see my mother inside with a few lifetimes of family antiques and the gentle ghost that lived in my childhood room, all traced like bones on an X-ray, delicate as chalk.

I felt the world around me creak and strain, snapping apart, fiber by fiber, like a rope pulled too tautly.

Back near Buffalo I had had a glimpse of myself in a rest-stop bathroom, and was horrified to find myself transformed into a stranger in rumpled, dirty clothing, my once-pretty face bloated and red with crying jags. I was drawn, thin, welted with the bites of a thousand Alaskan blackflies. My hair, shorn in April, was now growing out in weird brown tufts. I looked like some little chick, starving, molting, kicked out of the nest for late-discovered freakishness.

As the night thinned around me, I leaned over and retched. And I still hadn't moved when, down Lake Street, there came a muffled trampling sound. I knew before I saw them that the sounds were from the Running Buds, a small, dear band of middle-aged men who jog around the streets of Templeton every morning, in all weather, in ice, in rain, in this fine-pelted fog. When the Buds came nearer, I could hear gentle talking, some spitting, some wheezing over their footsteps. They moved out of the dark and into the glow of the single streetlamp on Lake Street, and seeing me in the park in my little depression, seeing, perhaps, something familiar about me but not quite recognizing who I was at that distance, all six of them raised their hands in my direction. I waved back and watched their thick bodies disappear down the street.

I found my feet crossing the street, heading up the driveway, passing through the garage doorway, and I opened the door to the mudroom to the smells of straw and dust and bitter orange, the smells of home. I almost turned around, returned to the car, waited for day. I hadn't seen my mother in more than a year: I couldn't afford the trip home, and, for the first time since I'd left, she hadn't offered to pay. Instead, though, I came in as silently as I could, hoping to have a few good hours of sleep before awakening her. I placed my shoes beside her white nursing clogs, and went through the mudroom, then the kitchen.

But although I had expected Vi to be sleeping, she was sitting at the kitchen table with the Freeman's Journal spread before her, her profile reflected in the great plate glass door that looked out over the two-acre lawn, the lake, the hills. She must have had a night shift, because her feet were in an enamel bowl filled with hot water, her eyes closed, her face hanging above her tea as if she were trying to steam her features off. They were slipping that way, anyhow: at forty-six, my mother had the worn, pouchy skin of a woman who had done far too many drugs at far too young an age. Her shoulders were slumped, and the zipper in the back of her skirt was open, revealing a swatch of red cotton underwear and a muffin-top of flesh above it.

From my position in the kitchen door, my mother looked old. If I weren't already holding the pieces together with both squeezed hands, this sight would have broken my heart.

I must have moved or swallowed, because Vi turned her head and looked at me. Her eyes narrowed, she blinked and heaved a sigh, and passed a hand over her face. "Goddamn flashbacks," she muttered.

I snorted.

She looked at me again, her forehead creasing. "No. You're not a flashback, Willie. Are you?"

"Not this time. Apparently," I said, coming over to her and kissing her on the part in her hair. She smelled antiseptic from the hospital, but, deeper, there was her own smell, something birdlike, like warm and dusty wings. She squeezed my hand, flushing.

"You look horrible. What in the world are you doing home?" she said.

"Oh boy." I sighed, and had to look away, at the thinning curls of fog on the lake. When I looked back, the smile had fallen off her face.

"What. The heck. Are you. Doing home?" she said, again, still squeezing, but harder with each word until the bones in my hand were crushing one another.

"Jesus," I gasped.

"Well," she said, "if you're in trouble, you'd better be praying." It was only then that I saw the crude cross of raw iron that hung heavily between her breasts, as if my mother had gone to the Farmers' Museum up the road and blacksmithed her own crucifix out of two hobnails. I nudged the cross with my free hand and frowned.

"Vi?" I said. "Oh don't tell me you've become a Jesus freak. You're a hippie, for God's sake. Remember? Organized religion equals bad?"

She released my hand, and tugged the cross away. "That," she said, "is none of your business." For a long moment, though, Vi couldn't look at me.

"Vi," I said, "be serious. What's going on?"

My mother sighed and said, "People change, Willie."

"You don't," I said.

"You should be glad I do," she said. She dropped her eyes, not yet remembering that I was standing there in her house when I should have been under the twenty-four-hour dazzle of an Alaskan tundra. I should have been blowing lichen off definitive proof that human culture existed there over thirty-five thousand years ago, some incisor embedded deep in the ground, some tool still glistening with seal grease, intact from the deep freezer of the steppe. I should have been under the aegis of Dr. Primus Dwyer, PhD, Delano Professor in the Sciences at Stanford University, where in a few short months I was supposed to finish my PhD dissertation, and graduate, heading toward a life of impossible luminescence.

When I told my mother in my sophomore year that I wanted to focus my furious ambitions in archaeology, she looked bitterly disappointed for a moment. "Oh, Willie," she'd said then. "There is nothing left in this world for you to discover, honey. Why look backward when you can look forward?" I talked for hours then, of the intensity of wonder when you blew away the dust and found an ancient skull in your hand, when you held the flint knives and saw the chisel marks made by long-dead hands. Like so many people who have long ago burnt through all of their own passion, my mother recognized mine, and longed for it. Archaeology would take me into the great world, into deserts and tundras, as far away from Templeton as I believed she had always wanted me to be. By now, her ego and a good portion of what inheritance she had left were invested in this dream: me as intrepid explorer of bone and potsherds, tunneling into the vastness of prehistory. Now, in the lightening dawn, she looked at me. A motorboat was speeding across the lake at top throttle, and its whine rose even to us, set two acres back on glowing, overgrown lawn.

"Oh, Willie," said my mother now. "Are you in trouble," and it was a statement, not a question.

"Vi?" I said. "I messed up big-time."

"Of course," she said. "Why else would you find yourself in Templeton? You can hardly stand to come back once a year for Christmas."

"Goddamn it, Vi," I said, and I sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and rested my head on the table.

My mother looked at me and then sighed. "Willie," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm so tired. Tell me now what happened so I can get some sleep, and we'll deal with it later."

I looked at her, then had to look down at the table. I traced designs in the waxy residue of its surface. And then I told her one version of the story, vastly abridged.

"Well, Vi," I said. "It looks like I'm pregnant. And it's maybe Dr. Primus Dwyer's."

My mother held her fingers over her mouth. "Oh, heaven help us," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "But, Vi, there's more." I said it in one exhale, in a great whoosh. I told her that I also tried to run over his wife with a bush plane, and she was the dean of students, and it was probable that charges of attempted manslaughter would prevent me from returning to Stanford again. I held my breath and waited for the knuckled sting of the back of her hand. Despite Vi's hippie mores, it was not uncommon in my childhood for us to get to this point in our battles, panting and narrow-eyed, stalemated across the table. And once or twice, for my greatest sins, she did send her hand across to settle it all with a smack.

But she didn't hit me now, and it was so silent I could hear the two-hundred-year-old grandfather clock in the dining room as the pendulum clicked, clicked, clicked. When I looked up, Vi was shaking her head. "I can't believe it," she said, pushing her tea farther from her with one finger. "I raised you to be exceptional, and here you are, a fuckup. Like your stupid fuckup mother." Her face wobbled and grew red.

I tried to touch her arm, but she snatched it away, as if mere contact with me could burn her. "I'm going to take a few pills," she said, standing. "I'm going to sleep for as long as I can sleep. And when I wake up, we're dealing with this." She moved heavily to the door. With her back still toward me, she paused. "And oh, Willie, your hair. You had such beautiful hair," she said and moved away. I could hear her footsteps on every creaking floorboard in the old house, up the grand front stairway, far away over the hall and into the master bedroom.

Only in recent years did such coolness arise between Vi and me. When I was little, I would play cribbage and euchre with my young mother until midnight, laughing so hard I never wanted to go to the few sleepovers and birthday parties I was invited to. My mother and I held an odd relationship with the town, as we were the last remnants of its founder, Marmaduke Temple, and direct descendants of the great novelist Jacob Franklin Temple, whose novels we read every year in high school, whose link to me would actually make a college professor burst into tears when I confessed it. But we were too poor and my mother was young, unmarried, and too weird with her macramé and loud politics, and so when we left the safety of our eccentric house, it always felt like Vi and me against the world. I remember vividly when I was ten or so-which would have made my mother my age, twenty-eight-listening outside her door as she wept for hours after being slighted in the grocery store, that one memory standing in for many. I dreamt at night of being so big I could march down Main Street, grinding our enemies under my furious ogre's feet.

Alone now in the dawn, I drank the rest of my mother's tea to melt the block of ice in my gut. Vi was wrong: I did want to come home. Templeton was to me like a less-important limb, something inherently mine, something I took for granted. My own tiny, lovely village with great old mansions and a glorious lake, my own grand little hamlet where everyone knows your name, but with elaborate little frills that made it unlike anywhere else; the baseball museum, the Opera, the hospital that had vast arms extending into the rest of upstate, an odd mix of Podunk and cosmopolitan. I came back when I had to, to feel safe, to recharge; I just hadn't had to in so long.

For a while I sat alone at the table, watching the crows fall into the vegetable garden, pecking at the heirloom vegetables that thrived every year under Vi's benign neglect. Then the motorboat that had gone out before zipped back, and soon more motorboats were roaring out into the lake like a vee of geese. Curious, I slid open the glass door and went onto the porch, in the warming dawn. From where I stood, the hills around Lake Glimmerglass looked like the haunch end of a sleeping lion, smooth and pelted. I watched until the motorboats came back into sight, collectively straining to pull something pale behind them, something enormous and glinting in the new sun.

And that's how I found myself running barefoot over the cold grass down to Lakefront Park, even as weary as I was at that moment. I went past our pool, now so thick with algae that it had become a frog pond, plunking with a thousand belly flops of terror when I passed. I went down the stretch of lawn, across the concrete bridge over Shadow Brook, trespassed over Mrs. Harriman's backyard until I stood in the road at Lakefront Park, and watched the motorboats coast in.

I stood under the bronze statue of the Mohican, the best known of the characters by our town novelist, Jacob Franklin Temple, and, slowly, others gathered around me, people from my childhood who nodded at me in recognition, startled by the great change in my appearance, struck silent by the solemnity of the moment. Somehow, none of us was surprised. Templeton is a town of accreted myth: that baseball was invented here; that a petrified giant, ten feet tall and pockmarked with age, was disinterred from under the old mill-a hoax; that ghosts lived among us. And we had been prepared for this day by the myths we'd always heard about a lake monster, the childhood tales around campfires in the summer camps on the lake, the small rumors filtered down. The town crazy, Piddle Smalley, would stand on a bench in Farkle Park wearing his pants backward-urine-soaked, which is why we called him Piddle-and shout about the rain-swollen April day when he stood on the Susquehanna bridge, staring down into the fat river, and something immense passed by, grinning its black teeth up at him. He'd shriek at the end of his story Glimmey, Glimmey, Glimmey, as if in invocation.

Most of Templeton was watching as the motorboats cut their engines and glided in. The Chief Uncas tourist boat groaned in the waves against the dock. The Running Buds climbed out with great gravitas, old joints creaking, and secured the beast's tethers to the iron hitches in the walls at the lake's edge. And in those brief minutes before the baseball tourists in town heard of our miracle and came running with their vulgar cameras and shouts and poses, before the news trucks drove ninety miles per hour from Oneonta, Utica, Albany, there, in the long, peaceful quiet, we had a few moments to consider our monster.

In that brief time, we were able to see it in its entirety. The beast was huge, a heavy cream color that darkened to lemon in places, and was floating on its back. It looked like a carp grown enormous, with a carp's fat belly and round eye, but with a long, articulated neck like a ballet dancer's, and four finned legs, plump as a frog's. The ropes of the motorboat had cut into its skin, and the wounds were open to the day, still oozing dark, thick blood. I stepped forward to touch the beast, then everyone else did. When I placed my hand upon its belly, I felt its porous skin, its hairs as small and delicate as the ones on my own arms, but thicker, as if the beast were covered in peach fuzz. And, though I had expected the early sun to have warmed it, the monster burned cold, as if its very core was made of the ice some said still existed at the bottom of our glacial lake.

It was somehow clear, even then, that the monster had been lonely. The folds above its eye made the old face look wistful, and it emanated such a strong sense of solitude that each human standing in the park that day felt miles from the others, though we were shoulder-to-shoulder, touching. Later, we would hear that when the divers couldn't reach the bottom of our lake, they called in deep-sea pods to search for another beast like the one that surfaced that day. We would hear that, scour as they might, they couldn't find another beast like ours, only detritus: rusted tractors and plastic buoys, and even an antique phonograph. They found a yellow-painted phaeton in its entirety, the bones of a small spaniel inside. They also found dozens of human skeletons, drowned or dumped corpses, arranged side-by-side in some trick of current or metaphysics, on a shallow shelf near Kingfisher Tower, beside Judith's Point.

That morning, before I drew my hand away from the monster, I felt an overwhelming sadness, a sudden memory of one time in high school when I slipped to the country club docks at midnight with my friends, and, giggling, naked, we went into the dark star-stippled water, and swam to the middle of the lake. We treaded water there in the blackness, all of us fallen silent in the feeling of swimming in such perfect space. I looked up and began to spin. The stars streaked circular above me, my body was wrapped in the warm black, my hands had disappeared, my stomach was no longer, I was only a head, a pair of eyes. As I touched the beast I remembered how, even on that long-ago night, I could feel a tremendous thing moving in the depths below me, something vast and white and singing.

Excerpted from THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by LAUREN GROFF. Copyright (c) 2008 LAUREN GROFF. All rights reserved. Published by VOICE, an imprint of Hyperion.

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Interviews & Essays

A Message from Lauren Groff

Though The Monsters of Templeton is my first novel to appear in the world, it wasn't the first I'd ever written. Actually, if you ask most writers, I think they'd admit to having a drawerful of bruised and battered manuscripts somewhere, beloved little freaks that take up more space in the writer's heart than they probably should. I'd been writing "novels" since I was in college: one very bad retelling of the Abélard and Heloïse myth (that, years later, transformed itself into a very different short story); one strange transfiguration of Paradise Lost, a theme I still continuously circle; and multiple complicated drafts of a novel about a handless, mouthless, pregnant young woman that owed a lot to fairy tales and Gabriel García Marquéz, bless his heart.

By the time I was ready to write The Monsters of Templeton, I was living in California, so far from my hometown that I woke up every morning still dreaming of it. Cooperstown -- where I was born and raised -- is a gorgeous hamlet in the middle of nowhere, blessed with fantastic beauty (a glacial nine-and-a-half mile lake, rolling hills, antique houses), a tight-knit community, and a world-class opera and many great museums. In the midst of the sunlight and striving of the Bay Area, I only wanted to go home. So, in order to spend time every day in Cooperstown, I decided that in my next novel my town would be a main character, itself, and would change throughout the eras.

The only other thing that I knew about the book came from an odd little occurrence that happened to me years ago: when my sister was fourteen, she swam our lake and beat the record for doing so, and the next year I, the older sister, decided I had to swim it and beat her time. So one foggy, dark predawn morning, my dad hopped into a kayak and I set off behind him. For the first five miles, I was swimming along happily when, suddenly, the sun appeared over the hills -- and as soon as that happened, the lake just seemed to kindle, to glow from within. By then I was pretty tired -- low blood-sugar, oxygen deprivation, what have you -- and suddenly saw a very odd creature keeping pace below me. I looked harder; and I realized that the creature was very, very deep. Only then did I realize that if it was so deep the creature had to be enormous.

Believe this story or not: I'm not sure myself how I feel about it, actually. But that morning instead of the normal reaction -- paralyzing fear -- I felt a lightness in me, a joy that carried me through the last miles, onto the dock, and throughout the intervening years (my sister's time, drats!, only two minutes faster).

With these ideas -- Cooperstown, scope, lightness, joy -- in mind, I spent a year researching and reading everything I could get my paws on, then began to write. At the end of three years I had completely different drafts, all with radically diverse structures. The manuscript evolved from a collection of six loosely connected novellas, to a story told by a ghost, to a story told by Willie as a boy, to the final story, told by Willie the girl, with the sudden surprising insertion of the lake monster. I'd always intended for the feel of that lake monster to be in the story: but (maybe because I'd read Moby Dick in the midst of that chapter) the monster wanted most desperately to become actual and, to my surprise and delight, imposed itself on the tale. --Lauren Groff
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 163 )
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5 Star

(43)

4 Star

(62)

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(40)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 163 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 10, 2010

    Don't Waste Your Money

    I really wanted to like this book. It has history, mystery, scandal, etc. It is a first novel for the author and I noticed she did some research to write the book. In the end, it took me almost a year to finish it. I read lots of other books, but this one dragged on. I had more interest in Clarissa, Willie's best friend, than I did with Willie. Save your money for a really great book and borrow this one from a friend or the library.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    Fart you

    ##$$&$&#$&$$&$&#&$&$$$&&$&$%$&#&$%#&&#&$&

    2 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A NEW FAVORITE

    An excerpt of my First Look review, full review originally published and copyrighted on my website - www.randomwonder.com:

    What can a person say about a book given the gold seal stamp of approval by Stephen King? In what manner will this review add to the mass of hype surrounding such notice? Is, "I liked it" enough? .... There's the wayward grad student, returned home pregnant and humiliated. There's the once flower child, now maturing mother, gone Christian. There's the nice hometown boy willing to pick up the pieces. There's a dying friend and an odd assortment of townsfolk. All in all, a nice tidy little group of characters. However, it's when the dead relatives speak and the monster washes ashore that we begin to see this story as something other than standard. We begin to see why King passed out the gold star...... Ms. Groff saves the best of her skills for the final chapter, the voice of the monster. That chapter alone deserves a nod from the literary gods. Once all the little loose ends have been tied neatly (and not too contrived either) we find hope that something that was lost can be found anew.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The cover is the best part...

    A little disappointing. The writing style was unique, but the characters were not well developed and the plot was a little dull. All of a sudden BOOM! and the book was over. It took me longer than usual to finish this. I wouldn't recommend it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    Her book Arcadia

    Will not allow postings by customers. Filled with a bunch of narcissistic characters. Hard to read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2013

    Disappointing. I too wanted to love it as it had maney elements

    Disappointing. I too wanted to love it as it had maney elements I enjoy in a good story. The author left too many strings hanging. I was immensly disappointed with the (non) resolution to the legends/history of the "monster" /the lost girls. The writting style and flow was good and might lead me to try this author again but, in this book I felt most of her story lines hit a brick wall or just fell off the cliff with no satifactory resolution.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    Excellent

    Loved the history, mystery and especially the fact that is was based on a geographical area very close to home. The writer really knows how to keep you engaged. The ending was a real surprise. Great for book club discussion. I would definitely read another book by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    Difficult to finish....

    This book just didn't catch my attention. I had to force myself to finish it. Not very good in my opinion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2012

    Dont like it

    This book is slow and complicated. It does not keep the reader's attention .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2007

    Monsters of Templeton

    Although I really did enjoy the storyline and the way it blended the past with the present, at times I felt that it was a bit disjointed. The beginning and the ending were interesting reads while the middle seemed to drag at times.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2014

    Moonys Chating box

    On the book The Long Ride home by Marsha Hubler.
    You must have a nickname made up like ( padfoot prongs cox coco fle etc.) Or others
    Be nice and never let anybody know your real name. And you can date if you want.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 9, 2014

    Absolutely LOVED this book! It's the kind you hate to finish be

    Absolutely LOVED this book! It's the kind you hate to finish because you'll miss its characters once done. It had a unique style of writing that hooked me from the start. Very enjoyable read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I read this book for book club and I loved it. The individual short stories provide the reader with the history of Templeton with the fantastic thrown in. The modern narrative kept pace with the history, including action, disease (mental and physical), love, and religion! Also the monster from the lake! Each chapter brought new revelations to the mystery of Templeton. I highly recommend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    A compelling bildungsroman. Somewhat fantastical, but ultimately

    A compelling bildungsroman. Somewhat fantastical, but ultimately relatable.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    Investment

    By the middle of the book I felt completely absorbed and invested in the rich and scandalous history of all of the Duke ancestors. Makes me want to look up the skeletons in my families closet.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Bad sample

    This nook sample is from the text of some other book, not The Monsters of Templeton!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Lauren Groff Masters Secrets and Magical Realism

    Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, published by Hyperion in 2008, and it is a many-layered story of secrets -- both within a family and within a town. From the moment Wilhelmina "Willie" Upton returns to her hometown of Templeton, more events begin to unfurl, of which she has just recently left many to forget.

    What a true disaster Willie's made of everything, really. A mess by her own making and embarrassed by her mistakes and poor personal choices, Willie is now a woman in her late twenties who, although is a smart archaeology grad student, can't really seem to make a good personal decision when it comes to men. She has a devastating end to her scandalous affair with her older, and married Professor, resulting in a pregnancy, and she feels even more intense guilt as she runs away, since she feels that she has abandoned her best friend, Clarissa in San Francisco, who is suffering from a devastating illness that requires many a hospital visit and treatment. It's really much too much for Willie to take in and manage, and since she's afraid that she will be kicked out of school because of her scandalous affair, she returns with her head hung low back to her childhood home and town and especially to her mother, maybe just to escape for a while to wait until either the dust settles, or some form of clarity manages to rise in the muddle of it all. Her mother, Vi, has a Bohemian past but is now a Sunday church regular, and has always raised Willie with the story that her father could have been any one of three hippies at a commune, but she now reveals a secret she's always kept, and which she now sets upon Willie to uncover the truth, if only to distract Willie from the massive mess she's made.

    With the monster's corpse coming to the lake's surface, it brings a change to the town. The monster has always been myth, legend, speculation, but the monster was always believed to exist by the town (as much as a monster's existence can truly be believed, though) and no one truly knew the quiet, goodness it held. A whirl of visitors now floods into town to see, record, and report on the monster. Prior to this great event, the many visitors to the town only were tourists visiting the baseball museum, one fashioned after Groff's own home of Cooperstown.

    It's an amazing story, full of secrets, ghosts, a monster of a lake, intertwined with love, sadness, regret. Amazing and quirky characters fill the pages, both real people in history polished with a little bit of fiction, along with brilliant humor and dark pain gracing each moment. I found myself comfortable and lolling in the story as I would imagine I would be in a small boat on the monster's lake.

    I stayed up late to finish reading this. I was held hostage in the story and kept thinking, "what next?" There is such majesty of language, such smooth stringing of words even more beautiful and melodious when spoken, and I found that Lauren Groff tied up every story line, and not one thing was left out. I was able to close the book satisfied, and know that I didn't have one question left, save for my imagination walking by the lake with one of the characters, waiting for the fog to settle to see if maybe it was a trick of my eyes, or if I just saw one of the many monsters of the town. Great, fabulous, read -- I'm excited to read anything Lauren Groff has coming next!

    Visit http://coffeeandabookchick.blogspot.com

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful blend of coming home story, family history, and literary figures with a touch of magical realism

    I truly enjoyed this novel from start to finish in a way that doesn't happen too often. The introduction by the author, the setting of Templeton, the characters and the alternating voices throughout the book kept me hungry for more. I've already lent my copy out and purchased this book for others multiple times. A winner!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mad for 'Monsters'

    Part curious history and part quirky parable, Groff's ode to her hometown is anything but overwrought. Her charming prose and thick, overlapping plotlines weave an engaging history of Templeton.

    Twentysomething Wilhelmina wanders home to regroup from a failed relationship and its resulting pregnancy, surprised and saddened to find the enormous corpse of the town's monster being craned out of the lake. Adding to her worries, Willie's mother admits to purposefully bumbling the facts of her parentage, tasking Willie with an ancestral scavenger hunt through the centuries of the historical flotsam her forebears, the town's founding family, donated to the local museum. Willie's sleuthing changes her ancestry with shocking regularity, drawing a creative, often vicious, backstory. She has only eight weeks to discover the identity of her father, someone her mother admits still lives there in town, someone she probably knows.

    An admirably juggled mix of narrative, letters, folklore, and gossip, alongside Willie's mounting personal concerns, warm the tale of a young woman's search for belonging, her drive to find the weight of attachment that accompanies family. Something even the monster knows about.

    From the monster whose pale corpse floats atop the lake to the slew of repurposed Cooper characters that pop up delightfully throughout, Groff directs a lively cast with a ringmaster's flair. As surreal and unexpected a story as your grandparents might have made up at bedtime, Groff's concoction is oddly comforting, radiating warmth and density suffused with pure imagination.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mad for 'Monsters'

    Part curious history and part quirky parable, Groff's ode to her hometown is anything but overwrought. Her charming prose and thick, overlapping plotlines weave an engaging history of Templeton.

    Twentysomething Wilhelmina wanders home to regroup from a failed relationship and its resulting pregnancy, surprised and saddened to find the enormous corpse of the town's monster being craned out of the lake. Adding to her worries, Willie's mother admits to purposefully bumbling the facts of her parentage, tasking Willie with an ancestral scavenger hunt through the centuries of the historical flotsam her forebears, the town's founding family, donated to the local museum. Willie's sleuthing changes her ancestry with shocking regularity, drawing a creative, often vicious, backstory. She has only eight weeks to discover the identity of her father, someone her mother admits still lives there in town, someone she probably knows.

    An admirably juggled mix of narrative, letters, folklore, and gossip, alongside Willie's mounting personal concerns, warm the tale of a young woman's search for belonging, her drive to find the weight of attachment that accompanies family. Something even the monster knows about.

    From the monster whose pale corpse floats atop the lake to the slew of repurposed Cooper characters that pop up delightfully throughout, Groff directs a lively cast with a ringmaster's flair. As surreal and unexpected a story as your grandparents might have made up at bedtime, Groff's concoction is oddly comforting, radiating warmth and density suffused with pure imagination.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 163 Customer Reviews

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