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Small Blessings

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  4,080 ratings  ·  869 reviews
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, ma
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by St. Martin's Press (first published August 1st 2014)
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Kat As the book raises issues of death, mental illness, affairs, and paternity, I would not recommend this to children. Mature teens certainly could handl…moreAs the book raises issues of death, mental illness, affairs, and paternity, I would not recommend this to children. Mature teens certainly could handle it.(less)

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  4,080 ratings  ·  869 reviews

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Angela M
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
After reading the description of this book and when I first started reading it, I thought it was going to be just about bunch of quirky people in this small college town whose lives were going to change because of the little boy who enters their lives. I thought it would be funny and maybe a little sad and that not much more would happen than he would become part of this quirky little world. I was wrong – not about the fact that these people are a bit quirky and not about how Henry changed their ...more
I won a copy of “Small Blessings” by Martha Woodroof, through the Goodreads Giveaway Contest.

This debut novel, will wrap its arms around your heart, with strong characters and surround you in love and peace. This book will stay with you long after you finish the book. I was totally taken with this book.

The writing is crisp and clear, and the prose will make you laugh and cry.

Tom Putnam, forty four years old, is an English College Professor, a lover of Shakespeare, who lived in a small college t
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book FIVE stars because even though I had critiques, I couldn't help but love it. There's something about how the characters were written that seemed so vibrant and full of life to me, I couldn't help but root for them and I desperately wanted everything to turn out happily for everyone! So, five stars, because even though some stuff was just flat-out CRAZY, somehow it didn't matter to me. :)

This is a story about a college community, the people in it, and basically the trials these
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had a great deal of trouble connecting with this book and I can't put my finger on it. The characters were somewhat interesting and very quirky, and the writing was good but for some reason the book just dragged and dragged. The premise is that a man who is married to a very quirky woman finds out that he may have fathered a child during an affair. That's the extent of the plot. There are a bunch of side characters as well who are pretty well developed. This was certainly not chick lit, but fo ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
When Rose first arrives, a thirty-something unmarried woman, at the college bookstore where she has been hired, she manages to charm everyone in her path. I had a few inner doubts, wondering if this book was going to be one of those unrealistic all sweetness and light novels. As I read on though all those doubts disappeared. These are all characters who on the surface seem to be doing quite well, but underneath are dealing with the same hopes and fears many of us have to face.

An unexpected death
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Small Blessings is entirely predictable in a general sense, but completely unpredictable when it comes to the specifics. Take a gentle, decent Shakespeare professor, the son he never knew he had, and a free-spirited bookseller, a beautiful western Virginia setting, and you've got a heartwarming novel with a clear path to a happy ending, right? But the professor is married, the son isn't quite what he seems, and the bookseller...well, okay, she's pretty much as advertised. The plot makes a number ...more
When I discover a book that speaks to the truth of my heart, it's a book I keep. Someday, I will want to go back, reread it, and see if it still resonates with me. Martha Woodroof's debut novel, Small Blessings, is one that brought so many moments of recognition. Her phrasing is exquisite. Her characters ring with life. It's a book that will be on my favorite list at the end of the year. And, I'm not going to be able to do it justice because a summary will not spell out the beauty of the lives i ...more
☼♄Jülie 

Small Blessings: A Novel by Martha Woodroof

This is another one of those charming reads, about quirky people and how they cope in dealing with different circumstances and life choices.

The setting is the campus of a large college where many of the teachers and professors reside with their families in the small private community within the college grounds, making them neighbours as well as friends and colleagues.

The one place on these campus grounds where everyone feels united and comfortable that
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
**Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

I have a confession to make. I could not read the ARC which St. Martin's was kind enough to provide for me. I tried. I really did. I must have picked it up and put it down no less then 4 times. I just couldn't do it. It bored me to tears. I accepted it was a DNF and moved on. While I was at the library last week, I saw the audio for this on the shelf and figured "what the hell, I'll give it one more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
3+ I was in the mood for a comforting novel and this one, with an academic setting (including a bookstore), was just the ticket. As you would expect from the title Small Blessings, by the end of the novel all the loose ends are nicely tied in a bow. There was more than one surprise along the way though and it was an enjoyable read.
Aug 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
*I won this book from goodreads first reads.

When I rate a book it's often based less on a critical analysis and more on how much I could get lost in it while I was reading. For instance, Twilight has a much higher rating than it really deserves because as awful as it is, while I was reading it I got so caught up in what was going on I didn't notice what a horribly abusive relationship it was and how extremely anti-climatic half the books were. Until I finished reading and actually started thinki
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Feeling BLESSED. Love , Love, LOVE this book!!
Small Blessings summary and message -- Life is messy. People are basically good, smart and doing their best. Trust that everything will work out. Be HAPPY!
Get your hands on a copy or order this for your book club RIGHT AWAY. (You can thank me later.)
Guaranteed to warm your heart and affirm that life really IS good.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
4-4.5 stars. This book charmed me to no end. First of all, thank you very much to Goodreads, I won this book in the Goodreads First Reads program. This book has been compared to, or could be compared to, based on its description, "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry". Some have loved it, some have hated that one. Small Blessings however seems to hide in Fikry's shadow. It really deserves to be placed ahead of it (do I really know that? I don't, as I haven't read Fikry yet.) Small Blessings is an incr ...more
Minty McBunny
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I went to the college the one in this book is based on and the author worked in the campus bookstore at that time. So having known the author and seeing little glimpses of my college life in the book may have colored my judgement a bit.

That said, I think any lover of serious, non-fluffy chick lit would enjoy this novel. It is beautifully written with rich descriptive language and fully fleshed out, realistic, lovable quirky characters. I truly enjoyed every moment.
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it
A lot of potential not quite realized. I don't quite remember why I was drawn to 'Small Blessings,' but I got a copy for a bargain price and was excited to start it. A review somewhere compared this to 'The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,' which I adored. So I hoped this would be a somewhat similar book yet tried not to get my hopes up too high.
And that was a wise decision to make. We are introduced to Tom, a professor on a small university campus who has a very fragile wife. He lives with her and
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was a little different. Tom Putnam is married to Marjorie but she is mentally ill and her inability to deal with any of the simple basics of life. This has curtailed not only her life but Tom’s and her mother’s who also lives with them. Tom has remain devoted to his 20 year marriage except for one affair 10 years ago. They all live rather quiet, staid lives on the college campus where Tom teaches Shakespeare. Then in the course of a couple of days Marjorie goes out to a college party, ...more
Syrie James
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel hooked me from the first chapter and surprised me in so many ways. Right off the bat there's an event I did not see coming, that sends the story in a completely new direction. From that point on, even though the ending was easy to predict, the plot takes many twists and turns which kept me involved and interested. I loved the main characters, Tom, Rose, and Agnes. They were very well drawn and they each went on an important life journey, growing and changing by the end--which to me is ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm a little conflicted over this book. On the one hand, the description of this perfect little college town, filled with so many kind and lovely people, made me want to live there, work in the bookstore, and soak up the perfection that the author has created. On the other hand, nothing about this book is terribly realistic and I found myself getting annoyed by that. I was also annoyed by a character's sudden and uncharacteristic meltdown in a classroom that was never explained and that was desc ...more
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: chic-lit, fast-read
3.5 stars: This is an intelligent chick-lit novel. It’s beautifully written, sweet, and a joy to read. The chick-lit themes are there. It melts into being a bit sappy; yet as a reader, you enjoy the melt. Woodroof is talented and writes beautiful prose.

“Small Blessings….taking sustenance from the simple pleasures of everyday things…when you got down to actual survival, that was the big picture.” The novel is full of homespun wisdom such as this. Also, another favorite: Worrying meant you were t
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This heartwarming story practically oozes charm and hope from each page. Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a life of painstakingly caring for his wife who suffers from a number of neuroses. Happiness is something he doesn’t even consider anymore. He teaches English at a small college, and the faculty and students are all aware of the burden he bears. But then Rose Callahan is hired to manage the college bookstore, and no one’s life is ever the same again. A perplexing complication to Tom’s life ...more
One of the best audiobooks of fiction I've chosen. the characterization is also some of the best I've come across recently. the 20-30% of it petered off into something unnatural though, abandoning what made the rest of it so great in favor of some tension and antagonistic challenge, which I didn't think furthered the development of character much besides the insight on loneliness and being unappreciated having sometimes profound and dramatic effects, and its social value as critique. The final p ...more
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I had to stop myself from reading it too fast so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. I wanted to linger over every moment of the characters relationships with each other.
Susan Barton
Tom Putnam is a pleasant and quiet English professor in a small college town. Tom’s wife Marjory’s mental illness is a drain on everyone around her and causes a great deal of gossip in the community. Yet, through it all, Tom remains the devoted and (almost) faithful husband. Aside from one brief affair with a colleague several years prior, Tom stands by Marjory despite her trying behavior.

When tragedy strikes, Tom’s life changes almost overnight – particularly when free-spirited Rose Callahan a
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book more than any other I've read recently. The author jumped right in to this story, and the engaging characters and unexpected surprises and turns of events that kept me wanting more. In addition, for the first time in a while, the ending did not disappoint. Not great literature, by any stretch, but an all-around enjoyable read nonetheless.
Sherre Hulbert
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found myself wanting to write down a lot of the quotes in this book. People choosing happiness in the midst of struggles resonated with me at this point in time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a lovely, warm, witty, beautifully crafted novel.

What Tom Putnam's life lacks in passion and comfort it makes up for in predictability. His awkward and fragile wife Marjory may not bring much to the marriage, aside from a ball buster of a mother, but she's his, for better or for worse. Tom knows how to handle and approach Marjory, experience borne of lessons learned the hard way. His brief affair with a poet-in-residence did him no matrimonial favors, so now, ten years later, he indulges hi
Ágnes Palásthy
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It is a lovely story beautifully written. Anyone who likes Anne Tyler, Alison Lurie and similar authors will love this novel. I am really grateful for the opportunity to be able to read it through NetGalley.

It was the front cover that first caught my attention. I loved it as a piece of art in itself. Then I read the blurb and I was caught. 'Wow, it sounds a great book', I thought. And it really was.

The story takes place at the campus of a small university in the USA, somewhere in the south. I th
Jeannie Walker
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blessings (even small ones) come in many disguises.
Sometimes far-reaching predicaments happen in our lives (like they did in this novel to some of the characters), but that doesn’t mean the change will be a train wreck.
Even though some of us try hard to be perfect, nobody is perfect. We can be wise but also very foolish.
Happiness doesn’t just happen - it is something we have to work at. It’s a lot easier if we believe in blessings that will come our way.
This is a down to earth novel with charact
Cynthia Archer
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word that comes to mind on finishing this book is delightful. This was not a complex or complicated story, which to me felt like a breath of fresh air. Many of the books that I have read recently have multiple twists and turns, complex and confusing characters, and plots that jump around from present to past and back, often without warning. "Small Blessings", as the name recalls, is a story that incorporates people with the ability to see the good around them, even when things don't seem to ...more
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Martha Woodroof has created some memorable and beguiling characters in her debut novel, “Small Blessings.” There’s gentle Tom, for years uncomplainingly accepting of his wife’s fragility and mental instability. Upon meeting Marjory he had recognized “an exquisite china doll, immensely chippable”; marrying her was like taking in a wounded animal, one which Tom in his ever kind heart naively hoped to heal. Henry is the 10-year-old son Tom never knew he had, a sudden arrival in Tom’s life, a boy wi ...more
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Author of SMALL BLESSINGS, on sale 8/12/14, 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,, 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 Tim ...more

Articles featuring this book

This NPR contributor's first novel, Small Blessings, tells the tale of a mild-mannered professor who discovers he has a ten-year-old son—arriving...
44 likes · 13 comments
“Worrying meant you were trying to control something you had no business trying to control” 6 likes
“Children needed space more than overprotection. Parents who hovered were meeting their own needs, not their children’s.” 5 likes
More quotes…