In the wake of a disastrous affair with her older, married archeology professor at Stanford, brilliant Wilhelmina Cooper arrives back at the doorstep of her hippie mother-turned-born-again-Christian's house in Templeton, New York - a storybook town her ancestors founded that sits on the shores of Lake Glimmerglass. Upon her arrival, a prehistoric monster surfaces in the lake, bringing a feeding frenzy to the quiet town. And Willie learns she has a mystery father her mother has kept secret for Willie's entire life.
The beautiful, broody Willie is told that the key to her biological father's identity lies somewhere in her twisted family tree. She finds more than she bargained for as a chorus of voices from the town's past, some sinister, all fascinating, rise up around her to tell their side of the story. In the end, dark secrets come to light, past and present day are blurred, and old mysteries are finally put to rest.This is a fresh, virtuoso performance that will surely place Groff among the best young writers of today.
In Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff invents a charming yet quirky upstate New York town, Templeton, hometown to protagonist Wilhelmina Cooper. Willie shows up at her mother's doorstep defeated after an embarrassing affair with her archeology professor and soon begins the summer-long project of trying to uncover a family secret. In the process, the listener learns of the soap-opera-worthy affairs, illegitimate children, and deceptions that have taken place in this tiny town over the past 400 years.
Nicole Roberts imbues the multiple characters that take turns telling the tale with distinct personalities, making each one more fun than the last. The Running Buds, a group of middle-aged joggers who pound the Templeton pavement each morning, are breathless and stern as they update you on the town gossip. While Charlotte Temple, one of Willie's many female ancestors, has a quiet voice and perfect pronunciation, exemplifying the Quaker sensibilities of her time. Each new voice is introduced not just by name, but with Irish brogues, thick southern inflections, varying pitches, and other audible adornments.
Roberts' reading (and Groff's characters) also evolve throughout the story. Willie's mother Vi, for example, is introduced as a flip, detached, and indignant 18-year-old hippie, and grows into the present-day Vi, a born-again Christian who is wry, wise, and weary with slow-paced speech and an edgy, throaty voice. Listeners may have a hard time keeping track of the 400 years of town history and many-branches of family genealogy unraveled throughout Monsters of Templeton, but it's fairly easy to follow who's talking thanks to Roberts' deft narration. A downloadable family tree helps to somewhat clear up who fathered who, but you're best suited to give up on the details and simply get lost in the story, and Roberts' alluring voice. Erin Hobday
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