THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON

Lauren Groff

 “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.”

So begins The Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl’s search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family.

In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton,

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 “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.”

So begins The Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl’s search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family.

In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton, New York, where her hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mom, Vi, still lives. Willie expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but the monster’s death changes the fabric of the quiet, picture-perfect town her ancestors founded. Even further, Willie learns that the story her mother had always told her about her father has all been a lie: he 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. Through letters, editorials, and journal entries, the dead rise up to tell their sides of the story as dark mysteries come to light, past and present blur, old stories are finally put to rest, and the shocking truth about more than one monster is revealed.

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  • Voice
  • Paperback
  • November 2008
  • 384 Pages
  • 9781401340926

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$14.95

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About Lauren Groff

 Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, New York, which is the model for Templeton, her novel’s setting. Her second book, Delicate Edible Birds, is a collection of short stories, some of which were previously published in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Praise

“In The Monsters of Templeton Lauren Groff has crafted a multilayered story that is boldly inventive and surprising, by turns wistful, elegiac, and sweeping.” —Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light

The Monsters of Templeton is a bold and beautiful hybrid of a book…Lauren Groff is an exciting young novelist, gifted with an elegant prose style and a narrative ambition as deep and as serious as the human mysteries she sets out to explore.” —Lorrie Moore

“A fantastically fun read, a kind of wild pastiche that is part historical novel and part mystery, with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.” —Booklist

“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

Discussion Questions

What did you think of the range of voices and time periods the author employs in The Monsters of Templeton? How would the novel have been different had the story been told from a single point of view, or been set in one era?

“As soon as it died, our lives spiraled down,” the Buds lament in Chapter 13, on the death of the Lake Glimmerglass monster (page 151). Why are so many people in Templeton affected by the monster’s death? What did the monster represent to them?

Given her conflicted relationship with her mother and, to a lesser extent, with her hometown, why do you think Willie Upton decides to go back to Templeton? What was Willie looking for when she returned to Templeton? Does she find it?

In what instances do ghosts make appearances in The Monsters of Templeton? What do the ghosts represent? What other symbols does the author employ in the novel? What do they mean?

In the Author’s Note, the author discusses writing about her hometown of Cooperstown, New York, and calling the fictional town Templeton. Do you think that The Monsters of Templeton could have taken place in any other locale? Why is the actual town’s history so important to the book’s present-day events? How would the book have changed if she had decided to call the town Cooperstown?

For twenty-eight years, Vivienne has told her daughter that Willie was the product of a hippie commune. The day that Willie returns home, she decides to tell her the truth: that her father was a man in Templeton. What would you have done if you were in Willie’s position? Or in Vivienne’s?

Of the many characters from the past—Marmaduke Temple, Davey Shipman, Charlotte and Cinnamon, Elizabeth Franklin Temple, to name a few—which one(s) stood out for you? Why?

Vivienne’s life is seemingly full of contradictions: she’s a former drug-using hippie with a child out of wedlock who later converts to Christianity and becomes the chaste girlfriend of a minister. Talk about these and other aspects of Vivienne’s character. How are she and Willie different, and similar?

What did you think of Willie’s search to uncover her father’s identity? What did each new layer of history teach Willie about her family? Why was it important that Willie learn everything she learned?

What was your opinion of Ezekiel Felcher at the beginning of the novel? Did it change as the novel progressed? Did you think that Willie might stay in Templeton to be with him? What do you think she should have done? What do you think she will do in the future?

“This is a story of creation,” says Marmaduke Temple in one of the epigrams before the book begins, ostensibly an excerpt from his own story about how he founded Templeton. In what other ways is The Monsters of Templeton a story of creation? How can Willie’s story been seen as a story of creation?

The Monsters of Templeton ends with a death and a birth. What does this mean in the larger context of the novel? Who—or what—else is born in the book?

What does the book’s title mean? Who or what are the “monsters” it refers to? What, exactly, does the word “monster” mean in the context of this book?