I finished reading The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff this week and I’ve been feeling dreamy ever since. This novel took me completely by surprise. I think I first read a review of it in Entertainment Weekly (a surprising but fantastic source of squib reviews) and thought it sounded somewhat interesting, but after doing more research on it I wasn’t so convinced. I even took it off my GoodReads TBR list. So I was quite surprised at myself when I plucked it off the ‘New Books’ shelf at my local library.* I scooped it up thinking that I’d give it a QUICK skim and confirm my disinterest and then return it for someone else. I read the first page and I was hooked. I was completely sold by the first three chapters.
The narrator, Willie Upton, was more real than any protagonist i’ve encountered in quite a while. I loved her– she’s the kind of woman I want to go out and have a drink with– funny, intelligent, appropriately snarky, and true as she can be to her principles. Mix Willie with a legendary lake monster, her soon-to-be career in academia, a historically significant all-American hometown (it’s a fictionalized Cooperstown, NY), a host of perfectly eccentric historical figures and some major family secrets and you’ll have this book.
The thing is– it all works, too. Groff has a great ear for sophisticated characters and dialogue that rings true. She writes convincingly in multiple voices. It would be a fantastic book club selection with themes about homecoming, the construction of identity, secrets & lies, how family shapes who we are or are not, women’s lives over the centuries, the significance of place….you can see where I’m going, I think. This is one to savor.