UVA students interview Martha on her background, writing, and thoughts about life
SMALL BLESSINGS final coverSmall Blessings (Publisher’s Weekly 4/7/2014)
Martha Woodroof. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-04052-7

Woodroof’s charming debut deals with a bizarre paternity case set against the backdrop of a quirky college town. In the span of one week, English professor Tom Putnam’s life is upended twice. His emotionally fragile wife is killed in a car accident, and he learns that he has a son, the product of a brief affair 10 years ago, who’s on his way to visit Tom for a few months according to a letter from Henry’s mother. When young Henry arrives, it’s immediately apparent, considering his age and race, that Tom can’t possibly be his biological father. Even more inexplicable is the fact that Henry’s backpack contains one change of clothes and half a million dollars in cash. Still, Tom’s name is listed on the birth certificate, and he’s more than ready to take responsibility for the boy. With help from his hard-as-nails mother-in-law, Agnes, Tom begins to create a stable life for Henry and adjust to his new role as a single father. He even begins to fall in love with Rose Callahan, the new manager of the college bookstore, who’s initially the only person Henry will open up to. But when possible explanations for Henry’s mysterious origin crop up, Tom, Rose, and Henry face dangers they couldn’t have imagined. Along with dark humor and a confident command of story, strong characters and absurdist twists add to the fun. (Aug.)

Preorder Small Blessings here! (indiebound) and here! (amazon) and here! (Barnes & Noble)


The things we remember on Easter morning.

This particular Easter is, I think, my second ex-husbands birthday. But I may be wrong about that. We’ve been divorced for a looooooong time. But. in case I’m not, happy birthday to you, second ex-husband!

What I am sure of is that my favorite Easter memory came maybe a decade ago when Charlie and I were eating at the Dragon Palace, a buffet of  which we’re very fond – not so much for its food, as for its theater. There’s an enormous, be-crystalled chandelier, for example, and all these beautiful young Chinese women servers who cannot understand a word I’m saying. There is an aquarium room divider in which gargantuan, bug-eyed goldfish swan around. And there’s the clientele that tends to be non-English-speaking families with packs of unruly children . (Do they eat there for the food? The goldfish? Because it’s cheap?)

At the time of my favorite memory happened, Dragon Lady still held sway in her sparkly sweaters and her barked staccato Chinese orders. Is she always mad, I wondered.

Harrisonburg, Virginia, is for its size, wondrously culturally diverse. A huge percentage of the people born here are Mennonite, and I attribute the Burg’s cultural diversity to the Anabaptist habit of offering refuge to anyone in the world who needs it. By the time Charlie and I arrived,  Harrisonburg had become a mini-melting pot  in which lots of different cultures did their  best to pay respectful tribute to  all religions’ holy days –  whether or not they actually got what those holy days meant. And Easter is, of course, a holy day; it’s meaning perfectly clear to Christians; but evidently less clear to the Dragon Palace staff.

That particular Easter, Charlie and I said hello to Dragon Lady as we entered. She did her little bow of greeting, waved us in. We gave our drink order to one of the beautiful young women, then headed for the buffet. Tradition Chinese buffet tinkly music was playing over the sound system.

But then, just as I reached the green beans, Bing Crosby launched into “White Christmas.”

Christmas music on Easter?

It took me a moment to figure out that it was not a mistake.

Ah yes! Here’s to cultural diversity in The Burg!




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