While she waits for her married archeology professor to call and profess his undying love for her and their child-to-be, her mother proposes a research project. Willi knows that she is twice related to Marmaduke Temple, founder of their town. She had always been told that her father was one of three random men at a hippy gathering, but her mom revealed that this was a tale concocted to preserve his identity. She challenges her daughter to read letters and genealogical archives that pertain to her family and deduce her true biological roots. The only clue her mother gives her is that, like Willi, her father also had family ties to Templeton's founder.
Lyrically written, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff makes the small upstate town of Templeton the main character of this novel. Groff explores the history of Templeton through its residents' stories; including those of the original Native Americans, settlers, town characters, and literary figures. In the end, Willi learns how to redefine the meaning of family, and how to finally embrace change.