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, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.
Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.
It’s always a plus when you’re reading a book and the story puts a smile on your face. That’s exactly what happened while I made my way through Small Blessings. Its plot sometimes had things conveniently falling into place for the characters but if you overlook that, it’s a fun read filled with feelings all of us deal with at one time or another.
What I enjoyed most about this book was its setting. A small college town inhabited by what appeared to be a cast of quirky characters. I had mixed feelings about the main character Tom. You almost have to forgive him for his past sin that has produced a surprise son because in the opening pages he seems to be a sweet guy who is caring for this very fragile woman, Marjory. I won’t give the plot away but I hoped we’d see more of her in the story.
Rose, the other lead character, is also flawed but it seems that Marjory has seen something within her that others haven’t and that’s the reason I hoped Marjory would be in the story more so I could see how their relationship progressed and if, as Tom suspected, it was a turning point for his wife.
Small Blessings has its humor too. Its pacing is not too fast and not too slow and the sort of story that’s perfect for settling down to an hour of reading here and there.
If you like stories with small town settings, lots of characters, and one that leaves you with a positive feeling that there’s a reason certain things happen to us, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.