5 of 5 well-deserved stars
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I would never have known about this book if it weren’t for NetGalley, and I’m so glad I found it. I noticed it because of the cover and title. Then I did a little research and discovered that Martha Woodroof is affiliated with NPR. I love love love NPR, so that’s all I needed. I requested and read it right away.
Small Blessings could definitely go into the literary fiction category, which isn’t usually my bag. But in this case, I really liked it because it wasn’t overly dramatic and drawn out.
This is the story of a cast of characters at a women’s college – Tom Putnam is a loyal, gentle-hearted man who has been taking care of Marjory, his mentally frayed wife, for 20 years; Agnes, Tom’s mother-in-law, is a quirky, stubborn lady who is searching for her new beginning; Russ Jacobs is a callous, egotistical alcoholic who hides behind his sarcasm and anger; Iris is a spunky red-head who likes to stir the pot but has no real friends. In walks Rose Callahan, an independent, wanderer who is so sure of herself that she makes others sure of themselves. She is the epitome of independence, but she is too guarded to let anyone really know her. Within the first few days after Rose’s arrival, Marjory dies, and Tom’s 6-year-old “son” that he never knew about turns up in town. (Don’t worry… not a spoiler… these happen at the very beginning.) What follows is a discovery of self for everyone involved and small blessings that some never thought they deserved.
This book was so beautifully written. Each and every character is so well developed, and the story line is also extremely well-developed but succinct. There are a couple of small surprises, but mostly you can tell where the story is going and where it will end up. In this case, though, the point was not the ending, the point was the journey. And it was a truly inspiring one. The title is perfect… this is a story about people saving each other, facing your demons, and finding the small blessings along the way.
And to add to that, what I love most about books are the small nuances that just make them different from all the rest, where the author puts some of their personality in. In this case, there are a lot of moments obviously dedicated to NPR. Here’s a little peek:
The Rolling Stones obligingly began shouting in her head about not always getting what you want but, provided you try, sometimes getting what you need.
As Van Morrison had put it: It ain’t why, why, why, why, why; it just is.
Plus, there’s just a lot of good old-fashioned wisdom sprinkled throughout this story too, with some slight humor to it:
“When the going gets tough, the tough suck it up,” Agnes said. “The rest get run over.”
You’ll always have a chance to give up, so why do it now?
I think what really makes this book so great is that it’s real life. It really could be someone’s true story. It’s not cheesy, it’s not far-fetched. It just is.. simple, true, and inspiring. I definitely recommend this book!! It is especially exceptional because it’s the author’s debut novel. And you don’t have to wait too long – it comes out on August 12th!!
For those of you who are audio book inclined, here is a 6-minute preview of the audio version of Small Blessings. Honestly, I’ve never listened to an audio book, but I did listen to this clip. Lorelei King’s voice and impression for Russ is spot on. A special thank you to Esther with Macmillan Audio for providing the clip.
And for anyone in the Richmond, Virginia area, I found out that Martha Woodroof will be at Fountain Books on September 23 for a signing! Get excited!!
Sidenote: So I posted my review on GoodReads already. I think I was one of the first reviews, and well… Martha Woodruff actually read it and sent me a message thanking me for the “lovely review”. She also said that I completely understood her characters and motives for writing the book. Wow!!!! It makes me really excited that I accidentally made a debut author feel validated and excited about their work. I’m now even more excited about meeting her and hearing more about her book at the signing in Richmond!
Just wanted to share this with you as proof that Martha Woodroof seems like a truly genuine and awesome person. So I’m begging you… go read her book. I’m pretty sure you won’t be sorry that you did.