Monsters of Templeton

Groff, Lauren


Voice/Hyperion, New York. 2008. 364 p.


So it’s not often that I’m caught reading an adult book in my current life as a member of the children’s department, but this book definitely caught my attention and was able to keep it, which is saying something. Once you start reading a lot of children’s books, it’s harder to get into adult books because the pacing is much slower and themes more complex. This book is not a light weight in either way, but it’s Groff flawed characters and twisting plot that keep you coming back.


The story centers on our main character, Wilhelmina Sunshine Upton, a borderline misanthrope who returns to her home town of Templeton, New York (based off of Cooperstown) pregnant with her married professor’s baby. Adding to Willie’s stress and general anxiety, her best friend Clarissa is sick with lupus and basically dying miles away in California, and she finds out that her real father lives in Templeton and is not some mystery hippie from her mom’s wild past in San Francisco. To say the least, she’s kinda in a pickle. Clarissa doesn’t want Willie’s help even though her husband’s nerves are nearly shot taking care of her all by himself. Willie’s mom, Vi, won’t help her find her father because she secretly understands Willie is the type of person who has to do the research herself. Willie herself is still love sick with the philandering professor and seems to still attract more men on her return to Templeton, whether she likes them or not. Oh! And I’ve almost forgotten the monster in the lake (think Loch Ness) that is a strange part of Templeton and its people.


Just from this you can see the story is already complicated enough. Add to all this a rich (and sometimes convoluted and outlandish) family history involving numerous generations and a ghost that haunts the centuries-old cottage Willie grew up in. Groff switches back and forth between the present with Willie’s voice and the past with the voices from Willie’s ancestors and predecessors, sometimes losing me, other times giving me a tightly woven narrative filled with so many detailed characters I wonder how she kept them all straight.


This is the one of those epic books that may take you a while to finish, but when you finally do, you almost want to go back to the beginning and this time take notes to make sure you appreciate what Groff has created in this magical world of Templeton. It’s hard to get me to read an adult book nowadays, not to mention finish AND like one, but this one succeeded.