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Small Blessings    by Martha Woodroof order for
Small Blessings
by Martha Woodroof
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Tom Putnam is a nice man, probably too nice for his own good. He has been married to Marjory for twenty years, only realizing after the wedding that she was too emotionally ill for him to have any possibility of helping her to change. She was a beautiful girl with absolutely no self-confidence who seemed to be frightened of everything. Her mother Agnes quit her job as a lawyer in Charlottesville and came south to live with them at the college where Tom taught since she knew how damaged her daughter was, having tried to talk Tom out of marrying Marjory without success. Between the two of them, they kept her safe and found a therapist whom she saw regularly without there being any appreciable improvement that Tom or Agnes could see, until one day in the college Bookstore when Marjory and Tom met Rose Callahan for the first time.

Tom had spotted Rose across the room and was immediately attracted to her, even though he knew that nothing could come of it. He had had one brief affair with a poet named Retesia Turnbull many years before, which made Marjory so much worse that he had been regretting it ever since. When Marjory pulls him over to meet Rose he tries to resist, but then he is amazed that she seems so normal when talking to Rose and even invites her to come to their house for dinner the following Friday night. She later comes upstairs to his attic office at home, which she never does and announces that she thinks Rose needs friends. This unusual behavior on Marjory's part amazes him!

Unfortunately at about the same time he receives a letter from Retesia announcing the imminent arrival of their son, the product of their brief affair. He had no idea that Retesia had given birth to a son and worried that his arrival would absolutely destroy Marjory. As the story progresses, we meet several other troubled people on the college campus who will also be affected by Rose and her smiling acceptance of everyone, as well as Tom's son Henry, a delightful little boy who has had terrible things happen to him in his short life. Rose, of course, has problems of her own that complicate the situation.

This book is as light and fluffy as Henry's hair. It is fun to try to figure out how all the complications in everyone's life will be resolved, but there was one problem that I had with the book. The author, Martha Woodroof, uses italics so much that it becomes truly annoying and one wonders why she doesn't trust her reader to sense the emphases that these words in italics represent. Thoughts are italicized, speech is italicized, and narrative is italicized. If that doesn't bother you, you'll really enjoy this book.

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