I finished this book last night and I thought that perhaps a good night's sleep would help me formulate a complete thought for the blog review. It didn't, and I am not sure why. Perhaps this book was not what I had initially thought it would be, and that has caused me confusion. I do not like confusion - especially when it comes to reading a book for fun. When I am confused, I immediately take the blame as the reader (I should be "smart" enough to understand this) - and therefore I finish the book rather depressed.
I did not expect a "horror" book - despite the Monsters in the title. I did expect a ghost story of some kind; perhaps with a gothic element. I was not disappointed here. The protagonist of the story, Willie Upton, is a 28-year old Stanford grad student who has returned home to a small town in upstate New York to try and put her life back together. Through an affair with her archeological professor, Willie has become pregnant - and in a fit of fury she has tried to run his wife over with a bush plane. She has temporarily escaped this predicament, but fully expects to be charged with attempted murder and NEVER be allowed to return to Stanford to finish her PhD. She is still in love with the professor, she is not sure whether she should keep the baby, and she has only returned home because she feels she has nowhere else to go.
Willie's life story is an interesting one. Her mother is a descendent of the town's founder, Marmaduke Templeton, and she herself lived a rather checkered past. At a young age she left Templeton for the West Coast and enjoyed the freedom of the 60s --- sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. She returned home after her parents unexpected death, strung out and pregnant. She managed to clean herself up, give birth to a beautiful baby girl, Wilhelmina, and vowed that her daughter would not waste her life and God-given intelligence the same way that she did. Vi has now become a religious fanatic, dating her Baptist minister, and working the night shift as a critical care nurse in the local hospital. Vi and Willie have more of a sibling relationship than a typical mother-daughter relationship, yet there is obviously love and mutual respect.
Upon hearing her daughter's tale of woe, Vi chooses to unsettle Willie's world just a bit more by coming clean with the truth about Willie's father. It seems that her father is not an unknown entity from too much free sex in California (what Willie had been told since the day she was born), but rather a local Templeton man - who still lives and works in town. Vi refuses to tell Willie who the man is, however. She thinks that Willlie needs a research project to get her mind off her own problems, and sends Willie on the quest. The quest does lead Willie to her natural father, as well as to self-discovery of who she is and what she wants out of life.
The premise of the story is simple - it is the research into her ancestor's past that I found to be very confusing. Despite "family photos" and periodic family tree adaptations, I feel as though I should have taken notes to help me tie together all the relations. I did enjoy the author's use of multiple Points of View as she reveals the family history. I did enjoy the various narrative techniques in which the past is discussed (through letters - journals - snippets from fictional novels, etc). I think the lack of a strict chronological order caused me some confusion, and perhaps the fact that my dogs continually interrupted my reading time may have played a factor.
The Monsters of Templeton is appropriately named. There is indeed a monster, Glimney, that lives in the lake (much like the Loch Ness monster - or at least that is how I picture her) - and her death has affected the entire town. She is a very beloved monster and it is as though the town itself has partially died along with her. There are also other "monsters" of the human variety that are discovered as Willie researches her past. They have died too, but the consequences of their evil still lingers. The town itself is a major character in the book. A fictional Cooperstown, NY - it is filled with historical pride of its past, baseball memorabilia collectors of the present, and the hope of maintaining smalltown America in its future .
All in all I would rate the book a 3 out of 5. I truly enjoyed the author's writing style, and found Willie, her mother and the town of Templeton to be viable characters. I think I will try to re-read this book another time, perhaps during the summer when I do not have school obligations looming on the brain, and the story will be less confusing the second go around.