cover image Small Blessings

Small Blessings

Martha Woodroof. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-04052-7

Woodroof’s charming debut deals with a bizarre paternity case set against the backdrop of a quirky college town. In the span of one week, English professor Tom Putnam’s life is upended twice. His emotionally fragile wife is killed in a car accident, and he learns that he has a son, the product of a brief affair 10 years ago, who’s on his way to visit Tom for a few months according to a letter from Henry’s mother. When young Henry arrives, it’s immediately apparent, considering his age and race, that Tom can’t possibly be his biological father. Even more inexplicable is the fact that Henry’s backpack contains one change of clothes and half a million dollars in cash. Still, Tom’s name is listed on the birth certificate, and he’s more than ready to take responsibility for the boy. With help from his hard-as-nails mother-in-law, Agnes, Tom begins to create a stable life for Henry and adjust to his new role as a single father. He even begins to fall in love with Rose Callahan, the new manager of the college bookstore, who’s initially the only person Henry will open up to. But when possible explanations for Henry’s mysterious origin crop up, Tom, Rose, and Henry face dangers they couldn’t have imagined. Along with dark humor and a confident command of story, strong characters and absurdist twists add to the fun. (Aug.)