Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review of Small Blessings: A Novel by Martha Woodroof

Martha Woodroof’s debut novel Small Blessings, to be released on August 12, is a sweet story about accepting change and taking chances in life. Despite a completely predictable plot, it is a pleasant and diverting read to bring along in a beach bag.

The Story: Tom Putnam is an unassuming English professor at a small college in Virginia, where he leads a quiet life taking care of his neurotic, shut-in wife. His life takes a sudden and unexpected turn when he receives a letter from a past lover; she writes that Tom has a ten-year-old son, Henry, who will be arriving by train in a matter of days. Henry arrives, bringing with him a few, shall we say, surprises. At the same time, an energetic woman named Rose has recently moved to town to run “community building” events at the college bookshop. The lives of Tom, Henry, and Rose will soon intersect in ways that they could never have imagined.

My Thoughts: Small Blessings is an unchallenging read. You can see the plot coming a mile away, and the character development isn’t especially deep or nuanced. Woodroof includes many quirky characters connected to the college; keeping track of these characters and their quirks and problems got to be a bit distracting, and didn't seem to me to add much to the main trajectory of the story. A few plot points seem absolutely unlikely and require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief.

And yet, if you are willing to simply enjoy the novel on the level of easy entertainment, Small Blessings can be both amusing and moving. It is charming and poignant without, I felt, becoming excessively cloying.

Small Blessings will appeal to fans of Jojo Moyes, Jodi Picoult, and Marisa de los Santos; it reminded me more than a little bit of de los Santos’ Love Walked In.

I would rate the book about 2.5 or 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, St. Martin's Press, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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