Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jen's Book Review: The Monsters of Templeton

Willie Upton never thought she would return to her hometown of Templeton, New York but now finds herself back home recovering from an affair with her professor and hiding the resulting pregnancy. The day she arrives home, a dead monster rises to the surface of Lake Glimmerglass. The entire town is buzzing about this prehistoric discovery. Then Willie's mother Vi drops a bombshell when she tells Willie that her father isn't a random man from Vi's hippie days but instead someone from right there in Templeton. She will not reveal who, so Willie sets out to research and find him on her own. Willie's family research reveals many family secrets and as a result more monsters surface.

I was almost lost when the monster surfaced (I don't like supernatural elements, although this was more of a prehistoric element), but I ended up really enjoying this book. Being an English major, I'm a sucker for literary tools like symbolism and understand that the prehistoric monster was symbolic of the "monsters" revealed to Willie through her research. The way the pieces of Willie's past were told through each of her ancestors' lives appealed to the history minor in me. I think this way of revealing Willie's past made the story. It would have been completely different and one dimentional had there just been one narrator. I was okay with how the book ended until I read the epilogue. The monster got me in the beginning and again at the end.
One unique thing about this book was that the author's note was placed before the story began rather than at the end. I liked this because I think a lot of people overlook the author's note, which can sometimes reveal the author's inspiration for the story and even give some background information. Groff's inspiration was a love for her hometown, Cooperstown (home to James Fenimore Cooper), for which she decided she wanted to write a story. During her research of Cooperstown, she realized she was creating stories in her head based on her findings. Her main inspiration was Cooper's The Pioneers, a novel he wrote about Cooperstown, renaming the town Templeton because his facts strayed from reality. Groff borrows characters from Cooper's Templeton and successfully intertwines fact with fiction to create a new story about the town she loves. Make sure to check out the discussion questions and the short interview with the author at the end.

Tonya's Note: I also really enjoyed this book. My favorite parts were the mixture of Cooper's characters with the ones that Groff created and the use of pictures of real people to represent the characters. I'm a sucker for stuff like that! Of course, the English teacher in me also loved the symbolism of the monster.

Since Groff's book made me want to read Cooper again, I've included two links to books containing the tales that relate to The Monsters of Templeton.



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