Small Blessings: A Novel - Martha Woodroof

The bright cheerful cover easily establishes the mood of this gentle story. It is a light romantic comedy that dips its toe in the pool of some headier topics. I looked forward to reading it, especially when the author personally thanked me for adding it to my shelf on Goodreads. As an aside, how awesome is that? Martha Woodroof got one star right off the bat just for that note.


In the beginning, this story reminded me of a less-edgy version of Jane Smiley’s Moo. It is a heartwarming story you will read because it makes you feel good, and you will keep reading despite some distractions that you will just have to ignore. Sometimes you get caught up, as I did often here, and want to know how it will play out – even if (especially if) you already know.


For one thing, there is Rose Callahan (not sure why so many characters are repeatedly referred to by their full names), the new girl in town. She is described several times in unflattering terms, always emphasizing that despite her lack of traditional beauty, people seem inexplicably drawn to her. If I were Rose, I would be insulted. But she gets her payback later, referring several times to Tom Putnam, her would-be lover, as “almost handsome”. This is odd to me – when I fell in love with my husband, I don’t think I thought of him as anything but handsome. Still don’t. But maybe that’s just me, crazy romantic that I am. In any case, I felt the point was belabored, and that point was: plain people too can be interesting and find love. Yeah for us.


There are characters here who repeatedly quote things in their heads – song lyrics, Shakespeare, etc. I understand giving a character a particular unique trait, but I found this technique distracting and it dated the story. Plus, it was noticeable as a technique. I did love the old-fashioned characters and their strong sense of family and home. But there were a lot of expressions I haven’t heard in decades, and people did things I didn’t think adults did no matter what decade it was — crossing your fingers behind your back when you “fib”? Really? I feel like a cynic saying that, but that was too Mayberry for me, and didn’t seem at all a part of a college culture, no matter how small-town.


For the most part, the various plot lines in this book require a hefty suspension of belief, and life seems to happen in an extremely compressed timeline. But I don’t want to confuse old-fashioned with poor writing, because the writing here is good, and the story moves jauntily along. Some characters sparkle. I could have had a whole book of just Tom and Agnes and Marjory, especially Marjory, because she was a character with real potential. Hopefully Woodroof is saving that for her next book.