Small Blessings

Library Journal *starred review*… April 1, 2014 … Tom Putnam is a professor in a small Virginia college, a nowhere man marking time in a life filled with small classes and an increasingly confined home life. Sharing caregiving for his disturbed wife Marjory with Agnes, his feisty mother-in-law, leaves him little time for much else. Within the span of a few swift days, Tom’s wife dies in a car crash and he receives a note from a former visiting poet and brief lover telling him of his son, whom she is sending to live with him. Ten-year-old Henry steps off the train with his birth certificate, a brief note, and his backpack. Amid funeral plans for Marjory, Tom and Agnes begin to make a home for Henry, with help from Rose Callahan who works at the college bookstore. Henry is a quiet, well-mannered boy with a rocky past who blossoms in the care of Tom, Agnes, and Rose. With many twists and turns and a cast of likable, very real characters, this is a thoughtful and enjoyable story. Readers will cheer for Tom and Rose who cautiously take a risk to choose happiness. What could have become a sappy tale in less capable hands is a warm, caring, and thoroughly entertaining debut that reads remarkably well. VERDICT: NPR pro Woodroof is no novice writer, and her first novel will have readers eager for more. Essential for fiction collections.—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA.


“In Small Blessings Woodroof displays a lovely gift for inventive plot turns and glittering moments. 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, author of Homework and Eva Moves the Furniture, and The House on Fortune Street.

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. I loved these characters even as I was chuckling at them, and I know Rose and Tom are a couple you’ll relish rooting for. If Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh collaborated on a story about a small academic community in the South, and Woody Allen directed, Small Blessings might be the result. Get ready for pure pleasure shot through with moments of illumination: maybe this is how love really is.”

-Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

“In the world of Small Blessings, to choose happiness is to take a risk, and Woodroof’s multi-layered characters have all settled neatly into their ruts. For Tom, a genuinely kind-hearted man stagnating in a hopeless marriage, happiness has been thoroughly unchosen. When clever, broken, unbeautiful Rose sweeps like a spring wind into the musty world of the women’s college where Tom works, the whole community tumbles headlong into risk—and headlong into happiness. 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, author of A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

Small Blessings on Indiebound

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