Small Blessings (NetGalley DRC)
release date: August 2014
Professor Tom Putnam has patiently cared for his wife Marjory for twenty years; suffering from
disabling anxiety and depression, Marjorie rarely leaves their home except to visit her psychiatrist. When Tom must teach class, his mother-in-law Agnes watches over Marjory at home. The idyllic setting–a small Virginia college with its elementary school, book shop, cottages for staff, and homes for faculty–contrasts the chaos that is the Putnam’s home life. To this sad little scenario, add the college’s new Book Shop manager whose tender spirit draws people (including Marjory) to her like moths to a flame, a displaced orphan arriving on a train unexpectedly, then toss in a tragedy that brings them all together and you’ve got a lesson in appreciating the small things in life.
Martha Woodroof’s panoply of minor characters was distracting at times: warring faculty members, a peevish probate lawyer, stand-offish college president, bumbling village constable. I found their stories distracting at times and unnecessary. I mean, do we really need the backstory of two alcoholics? The plot took unexpected twists and turns, if you like a meandering sort of tale. But in the end, Woodroof’s first novel with its message of hope and redemption was itself a small blessing.
Martha Woodroof has been an arts and culture contributor at NPR. You can read more about the writer at her website (link).