First I read this book with curiosity and, I confess, not a little scepticism. Then I read this book with pleasure and even, perhaps, morbid anticipation. Finally, as I turned the last few pages and the book spoke to me of endings and new beginnings, I read this book with appreciation and wonder.
The Monsters of Templeton begins in a distracted, almost haphazard fashion, introducing the tangential plot of the lake monster's death even as we meet the protagonist, Wilhelmina "Wille" Upton. It took me some time to warm to her and her hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mother, Vivienne, whom Willie addresses as Vi. When I first picked this book up off a library shelf, I wasn't sure how interesting it would be, but I borrowed it anyway. I don't regret that decision.
I soon fell in love with our heroine, who is just the right amount of feisty and reflective. She is not without flaws, her mother admonishing her as much as she admonishes her mom. Add to this the fact that Vi's dating her reverend and Willie's best friend, Clarissa, is suffering in San Francisco from lupus, and you have a veritable cast of zany characters--yet somehow, Lauren Groff makes it all work!
As Willie searches for the identity of her father, we learn about her family, and she learns more about herself. She confronts her pregnancy, the affair that led up to it, and forms new relationships with old acquaintances in her small hometown. Willie grows over the course of this book, and I enjoyed watching her development.
The parallel stories that Groff tells through the flashbacks and letters of Willie's ancestors aren't my favourite part of this book, but they serve a purpose and are interesting enough. Thanks to her excellent and varied voices, Groff manages to synthesize diverse perspectives that keep these sections interesting.
And lastly, there's the "Buds", the Running Buds, five men in late middle age who run around the town every morning, the town gossips, discussing their lives and the lives of everyone in Templeton. Groff inserts their opinions on events in the story, writing with the rhythm of a runner. These chapters serve to tie together the past and the present and put everything in perspective.
Set in and concerning a small town with a long history, The Monsters of Templeton is a touching story about family, growing up, and making choices. Groff manages to create a flawed but likable heroine and an even wackier mother. Unlike many books, which begin with a bang but peter out before reaching a satisfactory ending, this book comes to a calm and conclusive resolution that left me with the satisfaction comparable to eating a filling meal.
The Monsters of Templeton is a good read, and I'm glad I plucked it from the library shelf.