The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Friday, May 29, 2009

I've been really slacking with posting this summary/review. I read this quite a while ago, so I'm not even sure I'm going to do it justice since it's not very fresh in my mind. Oh well... I'll give it a go.

This was a book club read that I didn't get around to finishing until well after it had been discussed. Whoops. I'm a bad book clubber. Anyway...

The Monsters of Templeton begins when Willie Upton, a graduate student studying archaeology, abruptly runs away from her life at school in San Francisco and returns to her tiny hometown of Templeton, New York. On the morning of her homecoming, a dead monster is discovered floating on the surface of the town's lake. As the investigation of the monster begins, so does an investigation into Willie's family history.

Willie's ancestors founded the town, so her family's history is intertwined in Templeton. Many of Templeton residents (or their ancestors) seem to play a role. All her life, Willie grew up believing that she was the daughter of one of three men her mother, Vi, had flings with while living on a commune in California (sound sorta familiar? it is. see "mamma mia"). As a way to give her daughter a project to keep herself busy throughout the summer months, Vi tells Willie that her father is actually also a descendant of Marmaduke Temple (founder of the town).

And so begins Willie's obsession with finding out who her father is. She digs into her family history, and as readers, we are treated to reading the historical documents she finds, learning secrets as Willie learns them. We read letters, book excerpts, or sometimes, first-person accounts of historical events that Willie does not even know about. These chapters are from different perspectives, all different members of Willie's family, and each gets us a step closer to identifying Willie's father. Some of these chapters are really entertaining, and others are boring as hell.

In the end, I wasn't completely sure how to feel about this book. There was part of me that liked Willie, and there was part of me that was annoyed by her. Some of the historical chapters were interesting, well-written narratives, and those were highlights of the book. Then there were other parts of the book that came from so far out of left field, I couldn't suspend my disbelief. And then there were parts that were too predictable.

Overall, I did enjoy it, but I wouldn't put this on my shelf of favorites.

Have you read it? Tell me what you thought. Didn't read it? Give it a shot; see what you think.


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