Friday, September 16, 2016


Shop Indie Bookstores

The Cradle, Patrick Somerville, Little Brown and Company, 2009, 200 pp

Summary from Goodreads: Marissa is expecting her first child and fixated on securing the same cradle she was once rocked in for her own baby. But her mother, Caroline, disappeared when Marissa was a teenager, and the treasured cradle mysteriously vanished shortly thereafter. Marissa's husband, Matthew, kindly agrees to try to track down the cradle, which naturally means finding Caroline as well.

In another family, Adam has just joined the Marines and is off to Iraq. His mother, Renee, is terrified of losing him, and furious at both Adam for enlisting and her husband for being so mild-mannered about it all. To further complicate matters, Renee is troubled by the resurfacing of secrets she buried long ago: the memory of her first love, killed in Vietnam, and the son she gave up at birth.

Matt's search for the cradle takes him through the Midwest, and provides an introduction to a host of oddball characters who've been part of Caroline's life in the intervening years. When he finds the cradle, he also finds an unloved little boy, who will one day reunite a family adrift. A lovely debut novel, The Cradle is an astonishingly spare tale of feeling lost in the world, and the simple, momentous acts of love that bring people home.

My Review:
I loved this short and bittersweet novel. A young man, Matthew, and his wife, Marissa, are expecting their first child. I knew I was going to like Matthew when he thinks that he knows his wife is a little bit crazy but he loves her anyway.

Marissa is the daughter of a mother who took off. Matt is virtually an orphan because his mother gave him up at birth. Something about all this makes it understandable that Marissa asks him to find the cradle in which she slept as a baby and that Matt agrees to try.

Off he goes on a quest for said cradle with only an address for the aunt Marissa doesn't know she has. Her dad, Glen, a guy who hangs out with them and is prone to tearing up, gave that address to Matt. 

The Cradle is a first novel filled with that wonderful innocence a first novel sometimes has. Patrick Somerville shows himself already a master of character and of the odd detail that places the reader right in the location and action of the story.

Most of the characters are quirky, some in humorous ways and some who are clearly insane. Then there is the female children's author who writes poetry on the side and has a near breakdown when her son enlists to go fight in Iraq. She turns out to be Matt's birth mother.

As Matthew continues his search he meets all of Marissa's missing relatives including a half brother she also never knew of. Not one of these people is even remotely normal. Every time he decides he is done and can go home again, he finds another loose end he feels he must tie up. I truly began to worry something awful was going to prevent him from ever making it back to Marissa.

There is however a happy ending, though not without its own sorrows. That is why I call the novel bittersweet.

In my Bookie Babes reading group, we take turns compiling a list of books to be voted on for our next read. On my last turn, I decided to make a list composed of novels set in the hometowns of each member. One of those towns was Milwaukee where The Cradle is set. I discovered it while searching for novels set in Milwaukee, learning that not many are. Otherwise we may have never heard of this gem. Patrick Somerville has three other novels. I will be reading them.

(The Cradle is available in hardcover or paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. This sounds like a sweet read, in every sense of the word. Patrick Somerville is new to me. Maybe I should make his acquaintance.

    1. I love when I get a pleasant surprise like this.

  2. Wonderful review, Judy!

  3. I love these novels with connections . . . I just added this to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Books set in Milwaukee ... hmm that is a stumper. I have never seen this one. Sometimes thru research you can come up with the best gems.

    1. Yes and sometimes I wish I didn't pay so much attention to all the marketing of "hot" titles. I feel I might be missing some great books, especially first novels. I used to just stumble upon wonderful books on my own back in the 90s and early 2000s.