About Small Blessings
An inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had.
Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.
Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.
A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings’s wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.
An absolutely charming book, the characters are unique, a solid glimpse into the issues life presents and the choices made.
The college campus undoubtedly allows for a quaint feeling, people joining together in a tight knit community as faculty reside on campus, they’re coworkers, neighbors, friends. I enjoy a university setting, you always find an array of characters and issues causing interest and intrigue certainly proving true in this case. Agnes was my favorite, a woman with a tremendous amount of strength and sense. The bookstore serves as the cog of interest for all, a equal place for everyone to meet, convene without scrutiny, a true social playground.
The characters are a patchwork bunch, their lives slam into each other as they bumble with individual issues and issues created with their interactions. Each character weaves into the other’s in some form which makes the bunch quite interesting. Lots of maneuvering as the players figure out the ins and outs of life and predicaments delivered, both sad and joyous moments/events explored. Issues feel real and the wrongs and rights of their decision and actions plausible.
Humorous, poignant, a very warm and tender story appealing to most. The writing, potluck of issues make the story a worthwhile investment. Simply lovely. Woodroof impresses with her enchanting debut.
Martha Woodroof was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR, npr.org, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbors are cows.
Published August 12th 2014 by St. Martin’s Press (first published August 1st 2014)