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Review: ‘The Monsters of Templeton’ by Lauren Groff

Review: ‘The Monsters of Templeton’ by Lauren Groff post image

Title: The Monsters of Templeton
Author: Lauren Groff
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2009
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★★★

Two Sentence Summary: A small town’s wayward daughter returns home in disgrace, only to discover the story she’s always been told about her absent father is a lie. As she digs into her hometown’s past, the young woman uncovers many dark secrets.

Two Sentence Review: I thought The Monsters of Templeton was totally and absolutely delightful. I’m becoming addicted to literary mysteries.

Summary (Source): One dark summer dawn in Templeton, New York, at the moment an enormous monster surfaces in Lake Glimmerglass, twenty-eight-year-old Willie Upton returns pregnant and miserable to her hometown of Templeton, N.Y. Willie is a descendant of the creator of the town, Marmaduke Temple, and she expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for centuries. But the monster changes the fabric of the village, and Willie’s mother, Vivienne, has a surprise that will send Willie careening through her family’s history to dig up clues about her heritage. Spanning two centuries and based on Cooperstown, New York., the story is told through two centuries of voices, from Templeton ghosts to residents, masters to servants, natives to interlopers, and historical figures to literary characters. 

Review: I’ve put off writing anything about Lauren Groff’s debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, for a long time because it’s one of those books that makes me inarticulate with how much awesomeness it contains. This is one seriously amazing book.

First, I just loved the way the story shifts voices and perspectives. Willie has the main voice of the story, but Groff intersperses so many other voices and sources — diaries, newspaper articles, family trees — that the novel just grows and grows as you keep reading. And the other characters are so juicy and interesting, bastards and murders and black widows and unethical newspaper publishers and former football players. They’re just so much of what makes this book rich.

Second, I loved the monster. I’m still not exactly sure how the sort of mystical monster meshes with the more down-to-earth part of this book, but every time Groff wrote about this monster that arose from the lake, I couldn’t help getting a little teary-eyed thinking about this beautiful creature being dead. It’s totally bizarre, and I can’t even tell you quite what it looks like or what this monster was doing, but I somehow fell in love with this creature.

And third, I loved the mystery. Well, mysteries. The Monsters of Templeton opens with many, many unanswered questions and, for the most part, Groff answers them effectively and in good time. I never felt like the plot was stringing me along without a destination in mind, or that the mysteries that got set up early weren’t going to have a sort of payoff in the end. On the whole, it’s remarkably well-plotted, which I appreciated.

I want to shove this book into the hands of as many people as possible. I even went out and bought myself a copy right after I finished it because I know it’s destined to end up on my shelf as a long-term favorite read. I can’t wait to read more from Lauren Groff.

Other Reviews: Books Distilled | Shelf Love | Fyrefly’s Book Blog |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Fyrefly May 7, 2012, 6:17 am

    Great review! I’m so glad you liked this! I really enjoyed it as well, although it didn’t entirely come together in the end for me. I did like how well Groff was able to capture the feeling of Western NY, though… and I’m a sucker for anything with intertwining historical and modern storylines, too. 🙂

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:05 pm

      Yeah, mixing historical and modern storylines always does it for me too. I’m always hooked right away.

  • Amy May 7, 2012, 7:20 am

    I liked this too (and just reviewed it last week!), but I wish I had read it before I read her most recent book, Arcadia–I liked Arcadia better, and I think I would have appreciated Monsters more if I hadn’t read Arcadia first. Either way–she’s a heckuva writer. Amazing.

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:06 pm

      I haven’t read Arcadia yet, but I’m excited to read it now that I loved this one so much. I’m glad you think it’s better!

  • So glad you enjoyed this! It was one of my favorites as well, and I know readers either love or hate it, but I’m definitely in the “loved it” camp. I have ARCADIA, her newest, and I can’t wait to get to it!

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:08 pm

      I can’t see hating this book. I loved it so much!

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm May 7, 2012, 8:48 am

    You sold me when you said you went and bought it for yourself! Adding it to my massive library holds list…

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:09 pm

      I don’t do that too often, but I know this is a book I’m going to want to reread because I liked it so much.

  • Andi May 7, 2012, 9:32 am

    I hope if you get into the mood for more Groff you’ll try her short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds. SOOOO good.

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:09 pm

      I had that checked out from the library, but had to return it before I got a chance to read it. That made me sad!

  • jennakathepickygirl May 7, 2012, 10:08 am

    I read this in my pre-blogging days, but I remember ADORING the cover but feeling sort of Meh about the book. I cannot remember why, though, and it’s driving me crazy. Wish I could remember more details. I’ve heard great things about Arcadia and really need to get my hands on it.

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:11 pm

      Huh, that’s weird. I hope you love Arcadia when you get to read it.

  • nomadreader May 7, 2012, 11:33 am

    I adored Groff’s newest novel, Arcadia, and have been meaning to read this one for years. I’m so glad you loved it. I’m a big fan of literary mysteries too!

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:12 pm

      I didn’t realize how much I loved them until this year. I’ve read a couple that I was totally charmed by.

  • Amanda May 7, 2012, 1:55 pm

    Huh. You know, your is the first positive review I’ve seen of this book. I tried once to read it, but it was the wrong time, and I didn’t go past a few pages. Maybe I’d like to check it out on audio.

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:12 pm

      Really? That’s… unexpected? I really enjoyed this one, but I haven’t really read any other reviews of it.

  • Buried In Print May 7, 2012, 3:58 pm

    Oh, yes, the “monster”. Just wonderful wasn’t it? I liked the voice she invents for her narrator, and it’s obviously she has talent, but it was the “monster” that stole the show for me, for sure!

    • Kim May 10, 2012, 6:14 pm

      Right? I don’t even know what it was about the monster, but reading about how it was dead made me all teary-eyed.

  • Kailana May 10, 2012, 8:36 pm

    I have owned this book for ages and still not read it. I really must remedy that!

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:11 pm

      Do it! I loved it.

  • Jennygirl May 11, 2012, 8:35 am

    I borrowed this from the library a while back, only read the first chapter, and had to return it. Haven’t borrowed it since, but want to. Thanks for the kick in the pants! Great review Kim 🙂

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:11 pm

      I hope you like it when you get a chance to read it.

  • Cass May 13, 2012, 9:42 am

    I am so happy you loved this book! It’s one of my very favorites. It was actually the audio book that got me into listening to audio books–quite the accomplishment.

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:12 pm

      Wow, that’s quite a feat. I bet it could be cool in audio, with all of the different stories and voices. I’m glad you loved this one.

  • Aarti May 14, 2012, 10:13 pm

    WOW. I have always wanted this book just for the title and the cover, I admit, but now I want it because it earned a 5-star review from you. Sounds wonderful!