Monday, February 16, 2009

Monsters of Templeton

I finished this book last night and I thought that perhaps a good night's sleep would help me formulate a complete thought for the blog review. It didn't, and I am not sure why. Perhaps this book was not what I had initially thought it would be, and that has caused me confusion. I do not like confusion - especially when it comes to reading a book for fun. When I am confused, I immediately take the blame as the reader (I should be "smart" enough to understand this) - and therefore I finish the book rather depressed.

I did not expect a "horror" book - despite the Monsters in the title. I did expect a ghost story of some kind; perhaps with a gothic element. I was not disappointed here. The protagonist of the story, Willie Upton, is a 28-year old Stanford grad student who has returned home to a small town in upstate New York to try and put her life back together. Through an affair with her archeological professor, Willie has become pregnant - and in a fit of fury she has tried to run his wife over with a bush plane. She has temporarily escaped this predicament, but fully expects to be charged with attempted murder and NEVER be allowed to return to Stanford to finish her PhD. She is still in love with the professor, she is not sure whether she should keep the baby, and she has only returned home because she feels she has nowhere else to go.

Willie's life story is an interesting one. Her mother is a descendent of the town's founder, Marmaduke Templeton, and she herself lived a rather checkered past. At a young age she left Templeton for the West Coast and enjoyed the freedom of the 60s --- sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. She returned home after her parents unexpected death, strung out and pregnant. She managed to clean herself up, give birth to a beautiful baby girl, Wilhelmina, and vowed that her daughter would not waste her life and God-given intelligence the same way that she did. Vi has now become a religious fanatic, dating her Baptist minister, and working the night shift as a critical care nurse in the local hospital. Vi and Willie have more of a sibling relationship than a typical mother-daughter relationship, yet there is obviously love and mutual respect.

Upon hearing her daughter's tale of woe, Vi chooses to unsettle Willie's world just a bit more by coming clean with the truth about Willie's father. It seems that her father is not an unknown entity from too much free sex in California (what Willie had been told since the day she was born), but rather a local Templeton man - who still lives and works in town. Vi refuses to tell Willie who the man is, however. She thinks that Willlie needs a research project to get her mind off her own problems, and sends Willie on the quest. The quest does lead Willie to her natural father, as well as to self-discovery of who she is and what she wants out of life.

The premise of the story is simple - it is the research into her ancestor's past that I found to be very confusing. Despite "family photos" and periodic family tree adaptations, I feel as though I should have taken notes to help me tie together all the relations. I did enjoy the author's use of multiple Points of View as she reveals the family history. I did enjoy the various narrative techniques in which the past is discussed (through letters - journals - snippets from fictional novels, etc). I think the lack of a strict chronological order caused me some confusion, and perhaps the fact that my dogs continually interrupted my reading time may have played a factor.

The Monsters of Templeton is appropriately named. There is indeed a monster, Glimney, that lives in the lake (much like the Loch Ness monster - or at least that is how I picture her) - and her death has affected the entire town. She is a very beloved monster and it is as though the town itself has partially died along with her. There are also other "monsters" of the human variety that are discovered as Willie researches her past. They have died too, but the consequences of their evil still lingers. The town itself is a major character in the book. A fictional Cooperstown, NY - it is filled with historical pride of its past, baseball memorabilia collectors of the present, and the hope of maintaining smalltown America in its future .

All in all I would rate the book a 3 out of 5. I truly enjoyed the author's writing style, and found Willie, her mother and the town of Templeton to be viable characters. I think I will try to re-read this book another time, perhaps during the summer when I do not have school obligations looming on the brain, and the story will be less confusing the second go around.


  1. Your review is terrific. I haven't read this book, but I do have the author's newest work.

  2. Sounds interesting Molly. I had thought several times of reading this book but haven't done it. Very well written review.

  3. Excellent review. I've had this one on my TBR for a while. I'm not sure why I haven't read it yet. I'll likely give it a shot and let you know how I did!

  4. Great review Molly. I have never seen this book before, but I think I might like it. Sometimes I am in the mood for that kind of book. I find the cover to be very eye catching--black, red and white always catches my attention.

    I hope you have a great day off. I sure am--it is 10:30 and I am still in my jammies. I have a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, cinnamon rolls are baking and sausages are simmering on the stove. I am hoping to curl up with my book in a little while and read away the day. I have decided that for today, I will recognize that, yes, there are lots of little things to be done around my house, but there always is and those things can just wait! :)


  5. I admit to having been drawn to this one by the cover. I'm a sucker for interesting covers. I don't own it yet and I think I will hold off until I read the author's latest book, which is in my TBR pile at the moment.

    Great review, Molly, thanks for posting it!

  6. I'm reading this one now. I'm only about 15 pages in, and it has yet to really "hook" me, but I'm hoping to become more engaged soon. Nice review!

  7. this is an excellent review for a book that I had to persevere to finish. The premise is good, some of the characters are good, I liked her descriptive style at the beginning . . . BUT then it seemed to drift in too many directions, way too much convoluted tangents that I felt were unnecesary to the story.

  8. Well shoot. I've been wanting to pick this one up for the cover alone. Now I'm thinking twice. Thanks for giving a good, honest may have saved me some reading time here.

  9. Thank you all for the great comments; I am always self-conscious about posting a book review for the world to see.

    I, too, was drawn to the cover as well as the title. Once you finish the book, the cover makes perfect sense.

    Michele -- please don't dismiss this book based on my account. I simply cannot handle that kind of pressure :) While Kaye seems to agree with me, perhaps you can wait and make that decision after others have posted their reviews.

  10. I totally get the confusion issue. Really dislike when that happens. At least your review didn't suffer.

  11. I read this book fairly recently, and also found the historical sections confusing.

    The modern sections were really good, but the rest of it didn't ring true.

    I think it is worth reading though, as her writing is excellent.

  12. Great review! I felt much the same way. While I really likes the book I did think it was flawed.


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