The Monsters of Templeton
Willie (Wilhelmina) Upton, a doctoral student in archaeology who has gotten a bit too involved with a married professor during a dig in Alaska, returns to her hometown of Templeton, New York, to recuperate and to figure out what life holds in store for her. While she is moping about, her mother drops an explosive piece of news: Willie’s father wasn’t actually one of three possible hippies in San Francisco, but a fellow resident of Templeton. Willie’s mother sends her on a quest to find her father, giving her just one clue: he was an illegitimate descendant of Marmaduke Temple, the founder of Templeton. Willie begins to trawl through the family history to identify her father.
The author doesn’t hide the fact that Templeton is actually Cooperstown, New York, and the Temple family is the Cooper family, which included the famous author James Fenimore Cooper. A reader familiar with his work will find additional richness in this novel, but even one who does not know the stories will be captivated. Throughout the book, there are chapters written by various members of the Temple family and others who were involved with Marmaduke, giving great immediacy to what Willie is discovering through the distance of time. These chapters sometimes take the form of letters or testaments, and span the late 1700s to early 1900s. Willie manages to uncover a variety of family-related secrets during her search, all the time dealing with numerous stressful life events: the results of her affair, her mother’s new religious mania, her best friend’s illness, and the surfacing of the corpse of the long-rumored Templeton monster from the depths of Glimmerglass Lake, which casts a pall over the town for much of the summer.
This multi-period, multi-textured novel is an absolute treat to read.