When Tom Putnam, an English professor at a small college in Virginia, awakens each morning, he knows that his day is going to be spent much the same as it has been for the last 20 years --- doing his best to calm the fears of his anxiety-ridden wife, Marjory. Barely able to leave the house, Marjory desperately depends on stalwart Tom and her plainspoken mother, Agnes Tattle, who lives with the couple, for encouragement and reassurance to perform the simplest of daily tasks.
When Tom had a brief affair with a female colleague, an ethereal poet named Retesia Turnball, who was visiting the college 10 years ago, Marjory unfortunately found out --- and her already tenuous grasp on life became even shakier. Since then, Tom has made do with only his beloved books, his reassuringly forthright mother-in-law, and his motley crew of co-workers for companionship.
"Filled with one twist and turn after another, some sensational and some sorrowful, SMALL BLESSINGS shows us just how absurd life can be and how, if we just keep plugging away, things will be alright in the end --- especially if we remember to be thankful for our small blessings."
Now, however, another young woman who sparks Tom's interest has entered his world. Rose Callahan, the new assistant director of the college bookstore, has captured not only Tom's attention, but also the attention of just about everyone else on campus. While not particularly beautiful, Rose has a quality that simply seems to draw people to her. Maybe it comes from her ability to connect with others in spite of the fact that her childhood years were spent moving from town to town in tow behind her mother, Mavis, a sage of a woman whose wisdom was gained from years of tending bar.
Surprisingly, even Marjory has taken an instant liking to Rose. When Marjory invites Rose to dinner at their house, Tom is speechless at the unprecedented event. It's the most normal thing Marjory has done in years. Could she be getting better? And, if she is, what has precipitated this wondrous change?
While Tom is still pondering Marjory's out-of-character behavior, he receives a missive from his former lover, Retesia, informing him that they have a 10-year-old son together. On top of that, she's sending the boy, Henry, to stay with Tom while she embarks on a lecture tour to promote her just-published romance novel. Having had no idea that he'd become a father all those years ago, Tom wonders what effect the news will have on Marjory, even as he inwardly rejoices at the prospect of having a son of his own to love and spend time with.
SMALL BLESSINGS is about exactly what the title implies: the minute events that happen in our daily lives that give us a feeling of safety, happiness and satisfaction. While the novel starts in a bleak way that doesn't seem to offer much hope for Tom's eventual happiness, events quickly pile up. New people enter Tom's life, transporting him from a dull existence to one that's full of hope and possibilities.
Filled with one twist and turn after another, some sensational and some sorrowful, SMALL BLESSINGS shows us just how absurd life can be and how, if we just keep plugging away, things will be alright in the end --- especially if we remember to be thankful for our small blessings.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on August 15, 2014
- Publication Date: May 5, 2015
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Picador
- ISBN-10: 1250040531
- ISBN-13: 9781250040534