“We need a mass of ancestors at our backs as ballast. Sometimes, we feel it’s impossible to push into the future without such a weight behind us, without such heaviness to keep us steady, even if it is imaginary. And the more frightening the future is, the more complicated it seems to be, the more we steady ourselves with the past.”
I grabbed The Monsters of Templeton impulsively at Half Price Books, and I’m glad I did. The debut novel for this author, Monsters is about a disgraced grad student named Willie who has returned to her hometown of Templeton after having an affair with her professor and sort of running him down with a bush plane. Willie is kind of awesome, and an excellent protagonist. She is flawed and confused but smart and funny and I absolutely adored her.
When Willie returns to Templeton, to lick her wounds in her mother’s home, she discovers that the story she’d always heard about her father (that her mother got pregnant during an orgy by any one of three men — Willie’s mother is kind of awesome, too) isn’t true. In fact, Willie’s father lives right there in Templeton. The only clue she has is that he, like her own family, is descended from the great Marmaduke Temple — founder of her town.
Groff includes some elements of the supernatural in her novel. Right when Willie returns to town, a great aquatic beast is discovered dead in the down lake. Willie also has a spirit living in her room — some amorphous lavender blob that responds to her emotion. But those elements are set against a town steeped in history, and an incredibly intellectual woman, in a way that makes them seem extremely plausible. Occasionally, the story switches perspective to a former resident of the town or we get a few pages of diaries or letter. Really a very well written and interesting novel. I look forward to Groff’s sophomore effort.