Tom Putnam, an English professor at a Virginia women's college, has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. For more than ten years, his wife Marjory has been a shut-in, a fragile and frigid woman whose neuroses have left her fully dependent on Tom and his formidable mother-in-law, Agnes Tattle.
Tom considers his unhappy condition self-inflicted, since Marjory's condition was exacerbated by her discovery of Tom's brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess. But when Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the campus bookstore's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to dinner, her first social interaction in a decade, Tom wonders if it's a sign that change is on the horizon. And when Tom returns home that evening to a letter from the poetess telling him that he'd fathered her son, Henry, and that Henry, now ten, will arrive by train in a few days, it's clear change is coming whether Tom's ready or not.
For readers of Helen Simonson and Anna Quindlen, Martha Woodroof's Small Blessings is funny, heart-warming and poignant, with a charmingly imperfect cast of cinema-ready characters. Readers will fall in love with the novel's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life is veering irrevocably off track, the track changes in ways we never could have imagined.
About the Author
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, 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.
"Starred Review. A warm, caring, and thoroughly entertaining debut that reads remarkably well." - Library Journal
"A sweet exploration of the way unexpected twists in life can bring surprising rewards." - Booklist
"The novel brims with life and complexity and characters who never stop surprising themselves, and each other. This is a delightful and splendidly intelligent comedy." - Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"Small Blessings is a comedy of manners that will capture your heart. Woodroof's prose is tart and sweet - smart enough to make you laugh, but with an aching soul that will make you cry." - Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine
"Optimistic, wise, and beautifully written, this book about love in all its colors, hope, and the glory of third chances will stay with you long after you close the cover." - Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of A Grown Up Kind of Pretty
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Rated of 5
Roseanne S. (Middlebury, CT)
Small Blessings is a gift to the heart and soul
Martha Woodruff has written one of the most heartwarming and delightful novels I've come across in quite a while. "Small Blessings" centers on several characters and is told from each one's perspective at different points as it progresses. At times funny and at other times achingly poignant, I was pulled in from the start and was held entranced to the end, so very sorry to see it end. Be mindful, however, this is not a syrupy sweet story. Ms. Woodruff has written with such humanity – all the messiness of peoples' lives as well as the deep beauty - in creating the plot and the characters themselves. I grew to love each of the characters for their often peculiar, but endearing, character traits. My copy of the book is filled with numerous corners of pages turned down – sections that touched me and do not want to lose track of. I loved this book and would tell anyone to do him- or herself a favor and read it. Thank you, Martha Woodruff, for a deep, soul-satisfying read.
Rated of 5
Mary Q. (Greeley, CO)
Small Blessings is, overall, predictable and a little too saccharine at times, but I enjoyed the decent and quirky characters. It's the perfect light, amusing, beachy read that so many people crave during the summer. Martha Woodroof is a good storyteller, and I liked the way the entire book was developed with an even flow. I would definitely read other books by her, and I will suggest Small Blessings to many of my friends. (I wish we weren't restricted to only 1-5 ratings. It is better than "average" in my opinion but just short of a solid 4. I settled on a 3 but my true rating would be at least a 3.5.)
Rated of 5
Linda S. (Arlington Heights, IL)
Book of Small Blessings.
Small Blessings is a delightful, sweet story about Tom Putnam, a kind and gentle college professor. He is married to a woman who is mentally unstable. He has taken care of her through their whole marriage with the help of her irascible mother-in-law Agnes. Welcome rootless Rose and a young, trusting 6 year old boy Henry and get ready for second chances. The story is simple and obvious, but has enough "drama" to keep it moving. Definitely a good summer read.
Rated of 5
Lisa R. (Sammamish, WA)
Would make a good summer read
Well, here goes my first book review: while I would say that action packed mysteries are more of my genre, there were times that I became invested in the characters. Although it felt a bit chaotic in the beginning, theme became more interesting as the story developed, often wondering about the conclusion of the story. Would recommend as a book for vacation/summer reading.
Rated of 5
Sarah C. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
What a charming book. All sorts of twists and unexpected turns. The best part is that we all know people just like the characters in real life. A good read, easy and it makes you happy with the outcomes. Certainly not full of angst or bitterness, but full of whimsy and fun.
Rated of 5
Susan J. (Twain Harte, CA)
What makes a family?
Fatherhood, commitment, and family are themes of this funny and poignant story. Professor Jim commits easily and fully; Bookshop Rose has a fear of putting down roots. Little Henry charms everyone. Characters are well-drawn, and descriptions are so visually alive that I can see this as a successful stage play or movie. I loved this book and will recommend it to my book club. Woodroof is spot-on about life in a small college town.
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