Ever buy a book mainly because it has a cool cover?
Author Lauren Groff wanted to write a book about her hometown of Cooperstown NY, home of baseball and James Fenimore Cooper, and ended up creating a novelized version of the town, in which newly-and-unexpectedly pregnant grad student Willie Upton looks for solace in her childhood environs after a disastrous affair, and delves into the history of her celebrated, sometimes notorious family while she figures out what to do.
In the meantime, the local lake monster is proven to exist, Willie's hippie mom Viv has converted to the Baptist Church, the founding fathers and mothers of Templeton are revealed sometimes to have had feet of clay (and possibly pyrokinetic abilities), Willie's high school acquaintances are smarter and thinner than she remembers, and Willie's father turns out to have been not one of several candidates from Viv's time in Haight-Ashbury, but a specific local man, who Willie may already know - and who Viv still won't name. And everyone keeps commenting about the unchangeable nature of Templeton, even as it clearly changes from generation to generation.
In tracking Viv's single clue as to the identity of her father, Willie's exploration of the diaries, letters, and published accounts of the Temples and their descendants is an interesting (albeit narrow) look at the birth and growth of our own country, sprinkled with a little whimsy and a cast of fascinating individuals. How can you not love characters named Remarkable Prettybones, Asterisk Upton, and Cinnamon Averell Stokes Starkweather Sturgis Graves Peck?
OK, so it's not high art. But it's a fun read, and it made me want to visit Cooperstown. Good enough for me.