The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
From the title, one might expect a very dark and sinister novel about a town haunted with creeping creatures that lurk in the night. For those less likely to slip into the imaginations of other-worldly genre enthusiasts, one might imagine a novel filled with dark and sinister monsters of the human variety. In either case, one would be partially correct, but the novel is also filled with characters so honest and open, who try to be good and often fail, it’s hard not to imagine their existence.
The novel begins with the return of Willie Upton to her hometown of Templeton in New York state. The town is much more to Willie than the place she grew up, as she is a direct descendant of the town’s famous founder. The return is unplanned, just as is the pregnancy and the affair she had with her married professor while working on the tundra in search of fossils and evidence of the earliest of humans.
Heartbroken and confused, Willie is sure she cannot return to Stanford to finish her PhD dissertation and believes her academic life is therefore over. She has done what she never thought she would do, she has become her mother. Only her mother is no longer her mother, but a woman whose ideals have drastically changed in her daughter’s absence. The town too has changed, as a direct result of the dying of Templeton’s lake monster, a creature no one was certain existed, but everyone seemed to know deeply and profoundly upon discovery.
In coming to grips with her current state of affairs, Willie decides to go in search of information. Just who, in fact, was her father? And so kicks off a novel told through the historical perspectives of various familial voices dating from the late 18th century until the late 1990’s.
Throughout all of this history, with its monsters, both mystical and human, historical and present, romantic interludes both sweet and terribly sad, one thing is certain, Lauren Groff’s technique, writing style and evolution of plot and characters keeps the novel well-grounded, and the pages quickly turning. Groff’s writing allows her readers to decipher the mysteries in the book – and there are several – along with her protagonist. At the end, I wanted more.