The Monsters of Templeton begins with Willie, a post-grad who has left an archaeology trip in Alaska in disgrace. She takes refuge in her small New York town of Templeton, which is having its own dramatic crisis. A strange sea creature has turned up dead in the lake, bringing media, lookyloos, and lots of speculation to Willie's usually quiet town. Upon arriving home, Willie's mother, Vi, also unloads a family secret on Willie that occupies her time and thoughts as she delves into her family tree, which is also entrenched in Templeton's history.
If this sounds like a lot, Groff handles it all pretty cleanly. She brings up things in the right places at the right time. Her storytelling is complete, but requires patience. And it might be here that I disagree with other readers who would give this book a solid 5 stars. But perhaps it's more a fault of my own impatience rather than Groff's.
Groff alternates chapter voices. One chapter might be a distant relative of Willie's, while the next takes us back to the present. Her writing wasn't immediately fulfilling for me. I'd read nearly an entire chapter not understanding what it is about and then the last few pages would begin to make sense in the grander scheme of the book. A few times I actually went back to the beginning of a chapter to reread, armed with the knowledge of the relevance of that particular character. While I found this frustrating, the way Groff slowly unfolds the story makes it fulfilling in an entirely different way. It's one of those books that you might want to reread. Because you slowly learn who is who and how everyone is related, you might get more out of a second reading.
I feel like a high school English teacher would love this book for its symbolism and themes. It just *felt* like one of those books that could elicit a lot of discussion and thought. Maybe I wasn't in the right mindframe for this book, but I would give it three stars out of five. While I "only" liked it, I can see how others might love it.