Small Blessings: A Novel
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Published:
St. Martin's Press 2014
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Description
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'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.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
08/12/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781466835887
ASIN:
B00I703OQ2
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 20:00:39
Date Updated:
May 24, 2019 02:19:37
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May 09, 2019 13:51:00

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      • value: small towns
      • value: literary fiction
      • value: family life
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      • value: Professors
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        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.

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publishDate
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shortDescription

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,...

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title
Small Blessings
fullDescription
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'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.


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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: People Magazine
      • content:

        "Woodroof nails the debut novel: This warm, wise tale leaves a smile long after the final page is turned."

      • premium: False
      • source: Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine
      • content: "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 the, and I know Rose and Tom are a couple you'll relish rooting for...Get ready for pure pleasure shot through with moments of illumination: maybe this is how love really is."
      • premium: False
      • source: Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of A Grown Up Kind of Pretty
      • content: "In the world of Small Blessings, to choose happiness is to take a risk... 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."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        April 7, 2014
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        August 15, 2014
        In this debut novel, the arrival of a spunky new manager at the local bookstore heralds a sea change in the college and community it serves.Tom Putnam's life has been virtually unchanged since he completed graduate school. He teaches English at a picturesque small-town college in Virginia. He lives in faculty housing with his wife, Marjory, a meek, troubled woman, and her mother, Agnes, who helps with Marjory's care. Tom is not necessarily happy, but he is dutiful, and he and Agnes make a good team. He enjoys his work and has a sort-of friend on the faculty, stuffed-shirt Russell Jacobs, and a sort-of nemesis, brash Iris Benson, but both are largely background to his daily, plodding existence. Late one summer, Rose Callahan appears on campus to invigorate programming at the bookstore. Simultaneously, immense changes descend on Tom's life: Marjory dies in an automobile accident, and a mysterious boy arrives on a train claiming to be the product of Tom's one, brief extramarital affair. Rose, though unconnected to these events, comes to the forefront of Tom's life as they unfold. With her forthright self-confidence and ease around others, Tom is drawn to her magnetically, and the feeling appears mutual. Soon, the caregiving duo of Tom and Agnes expand their circle to include Rose and the boy, Henry. Rose's signature qualities, however, also draw Tom's colleagues-and their instabilities-out of the woodwork, complicating the surprising ease of this new family's growth. With the sheer number of dramatic plot points, the novel should read like pulp, and there are quite a few loose ends to tie up in the conclusion, but Woodroof's light hand and compassion for her characters make the story flow naturally. The question of what makes a family is gently asked and answered throughout. A pleasant read about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances and the optimism that guides them.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from 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. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/14.]--Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

subtitle
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popularity
256
publisher
St. Martin's Press
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