Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Monsters of Templeton

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.

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