SMALL BLESSINGS by Martha Woodroof, Book Review: Charming

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof is a novel to warm the heart and inspire us to take risks for happiness.

Small Blessings - Martha Woodroof - Book ReviewSmall Blessings Synopsis

From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes 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‘ 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.

(St Martin’s Press)

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The adjectives ‘delightful’ and ‘lovely’ are used far too often these days and much of their intended sincerity eroded, but think back to less commercial times when these words evoked true admiration, and then apply them to this novel. Martha Woodroof’s Small Blessings is a restorative to the psyche.

Woodroof’s ensemble cast are by no means infallible – more to the point, their lives are particularly messy, as you’d expect from any romance/mystery novel. But what I found so engaging about Small Blessings is the way issues are tackled with efficient candor leaving more time to reflect upon and celebrate the innate goodness in people.

The character of Rose Callahan is a catalyst for much excitement on campus,

There she was, as welcome in this insular community as fresh air in a multiplex, a woman who, rumor had it, risked being happy. Tom had heard the most about her from Russell Jacobs, his colleague in the English department, and now he was looking at her in the flesh, at this tall, slender, dark-haired creature, oddly stylish in her ill-fitting, baggy trousers and white T-shirt.

and leading man Tom Putnam is the smart, shy and earnest type sure to garner a devoted fan base (the type of role actor Colin Firth is so perfectly cast in).

Rose didn’t usually admire people who lived obviously muddled lives, but something about this man, about the way he made no effort to distance himself from his wife’s noticeably odd behavior, pinged her well-defended heart. Rose, who never hesitated to change or move on if life got complicated, began to wonder if this man might have a kind of remarkable bravery. Might he be one of the rare few who had the courage to accept – without malice – other people exactly as they were, even when this meant he found himself joined for life with someone like Marjory?

Small Blessings is not chick-lit. It is undeniably romantic and often wryly humourous, but there is nothing trivial or flippant about it. The characters are relatively mature and Woodroof’s prose and observations (via her characters) exude a sense of hard-earned wisdom. Sacrifice should not be labelled wasted opportunity – done willingly it is worthy of respect and life’s reward.

Martha Woodroof’s charming debut novel Small Blessings will leave you feeling good about being good and inspired to take risks for happiness.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery

Related Reads:  The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley  |  The Rarest Thing by Deborah O’Brien

About the Author, Martha Woodroof

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 ChronicleSmall Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbours are cows.

* My receiving an ebook copy of this title from St Martin’s Press for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.