Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Lauren Groff warns you that here there be The Monsters of Templeton

On the day that archeology student Wilhelmina "Willie" Upton returns to her home town of Templeton,NY,the corpse of a giant water monster is discovered in the local lake. Quite the event to upstage the news that Willie has to give to her hippy dippy mother, Vi-that Willie is pregnant,thanks to an affair on a major dig in Alaska with her married professor which seems to be at an end.

Vi has some news of her own to tell Willie;not only has she become religious,but the truth about Willie's parentage. For years,Willie was told that her father was one of three men whom Vi had had a tryst with in San Francisco but it turns out that her father is actually a Templeton resident,with a wife and children of his own. Vi refuses to name him but does give her a hint,that Willie's father shares a common ancestry with the Uptons as one of the descendants of Marmaduke Temple,the town's founder.

Armed with this knowledge and in need of something to focus on instead of worrying about the impending life choices she has to make,Willie goes in search of her father and digs up plenty of family history. It appears that there is more that one branch of Temple lineage to investigate,since Marmaduke had a son by one of his slaves,Hetty Averell,and that both sections of the family tree have been intertwined for decades.

While Willie is deep in research mode,the answer that she seeks may be right under her nose amongst the group of jogging men known as The Running Buds. The Buds have been like unofficial uncles to Willie over the years and she shares their love of running and possibly a bit of DNA as well.

Lauren Groff's Templeton is a fictional version of her home town of Cooperstown and the things that Cooperstown are best known for(such as the Baseball Museum and being the homestead of James Fenimore Cooper)have been neatly woven into the novel,along with a number of "family" photos,journals,letters and various references to Cooper's novels. Even if you've never read,or finished,any of the books by James Fenimore Cooper,that won't prevent you from devouring the compelling gothic delights of this story.

Groff deftly blends a modern sensibility and a firm grasp of early American narrative style in creating her characters,both of the past and present. The atmosphere that slowly builds up around the reader, as more and more secrets and lies come to the surface,makes the book quite a page turner. The Monsters of Templeton may be a first novel but one hopes that this is not the last time we get such a bounty of riches from Lauren Groff's vivid imagination.

The Monsters of Templeton is now available at a bookseller near you and my fervent wish is that as many folks as possible take a chance and discover this wonderful new read. As I write this,snow is falling fast outside my window and the best thing that I could give to any of my fellow snowbound neighbors would be an excellent novel such as this to cozy up with on such a winter's day.

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