The Monsters of Templeton

by Lauren Groff

My friend Andrea Gough is a great reader.  Here’s what she had to say recently about one of her favorite recent books:

As is the case with many readers, I’m a sucker for a good opening line, and Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton immediately hooked me: “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.”  The character is Willie Upton; the disgrace, an unplanned pregnancy resulting from an illicit affair with her Ph.D. advisor.  The monster is a sort of upstate New York Loch Ness Monster, the discovery of which runs as an undercurrent to the narrative (and which provides the perfect, melancholy epilogue).

Back to hide in her mother’s home, Willie mopes until presented with this challenge: the story she’s always been told of her absent father is untrue.  He was a descendent of the town’s founding fathers and still lives in the small town she grew up in.  Willie, an archaeologist, jumps at this mystery as at a lifeline, and begins sifting through the archives of the town.  In hindsight, one of the things that surprised me about The Monsters of Templeton is how perfectly realized each character’s voice is.  As Willie searches for her father, she reads journals, letters, and newspaper accounts of her diverse and dynamic ancestors, all presented in the novel, and the voice in each of those parts is totally unique.  Groff excels at populating her story with vibrant, living people, both historical and contemporary.  As a reader who loves characters, I feel as though The Monsters of Templeton is a book that was written for me.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Monsters of Templeton

  1. Andrea

    I’m so happy to have found another fan! I think you’re spot on about the magical realism elements – I sometimes hesitate to mention the lake monster because it can immediately turn people off the book, but Groff integrates it so naturally that I think it becomes just another part of the cast or the setting.

  2. Vanessa

    Ahh, thank you for giving this little book some love. I found it after reading a review in Entertainment Weekly (no kidding, a great place to find new reads.) I was expecting a monster story which is not what I got. But I found such a beautiful, poignant and funny narrative instead that I didn’t mind. I was surprised how compelling the past and current narratives betweeen Willie and her ancestors were. I also am usually a real stick in the mud when it comes to magical realism (I cringe just typing that phrase), but Groff somehow pulled it off. Maybe by not relying on the magical elements to propel the narrative.

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