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The Cradle: A Novel

The Cradle: A Novel

3.4 21
by Patrick Somerville

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From a writer and producer of HBO's hit apocalyptic drama series The Leftovers, comes a remarkable tale of devotion, marriage, and parenthood.

Early one summer morning, Matthew Bishop kisses his still-sleeping wife Marissa, gets dressed and eases his truck through Milwaukee, bound for the highway. His wife, pregnant with their first child,


From a writer and producer of HBO's hit apocalyptic drama series The Leftovers, comes a remarkable tale of devotion, marriage, and parenthood.

Early one summer morning, Matthew Bishop kisses his still-sleeping wife Marissa, gets dressed and eases his truck through Milwaukee, bound for the highway. His wife, pregnant with their first child, has asked him to find the antique cradle taken years before by her mother Caroline when she abandoned Marissa, never to contact her daughter again. Soon to be a mother herself, Marissa now dreams of nothing else but bringing her baby home to the cradle she herself slept in. His wife does not know-does not want to know-where her mother lives, but Matt has an address for Caroline's sister near by and with any luck, he will be home in time for dinner.

Only as Matt tries to track down his wife's mother, he discovers that Caroline, upon leaving Marissa, has led a life increasingly plagued by impulse and irrationality, a mysterious life that grows more inexplicable with each new lead Matt gains, and door he enters. As hours turn into days and Caroline's trail takes Matt from Wisconsin to Minnesota, Illinois, and beyond in search of the cradle, Matt makes a discovery that will forever change Marissa's life, and faces a decision that will challenge everything he has ever known.

Elegant and astonishing, Patrick Somerville tells the story of one man's journey into the heart of marriage, parenthood, and what it means to be a family. Confirming the arrival of an exuberantly talented new writer, THE CRADLE is an uniquely imaginative debut novel that radiates with wisdom and wonder.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
…magical…Mr. Somerville has the chops to keep this story from softening into the generic mush suggested by his premise…In a streamlined 200-page book that works as a fully conceived novel, he tells an endearing story full of genuinely surprising turns.
—The New York Times
Dean Bakopoulosis
One gets the sense that somewhere, near Patrick Somerville's writing desk, hundreds of unpublished pages of his first novel, The Cradle, litter the floor. The scope of the story indicates that many hours of imaginative sweat went into the production of this lean, moving tale. Happily, The Cradle emerges swift and cinematic, an epic story told in a series of artfully curated, wonderfully rendered scenes.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

An elusive heirloom cradle symbolizes childhood's pains and possibilities in Somerville's spare, elegant first novel (after a story collection, Trouble ). Marissa, pregnant with her first child, becomes obsessed with tracking down the antique cradle her mother took when she abandoned the family a decade earlier. Marissa's husband, Matt, is sure he's been dispatched on a fool's errand, but his journey soon connects him to Marissa's family and his own history of abandonment, neglect and abuse amid a string of foster homes and orphanages. Matt's quest through four states is interwoven with another drama that takes place 11 years later, in 2008, in which poet and children's author Renee Owen is haunted by memories of war and a lost love as she prepares to send her son off to fight in Iraq. Again, long-buried secrets come to the surface, one of which poignantly links the two story lines. Though the connection will not shock, Somerville's themes of a broader sense of interconnectivity and the resultant miracles of everyday existence retain their strength and affirm the value of forming and keeping families. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

It's 1997, and 25-year-old Marissa Bishop could be a bit crazy, or perhaps it's just pregnancy that makes her send her adoring husband, Matt, on an impossible quest: find her own childhood cradle, which was removed from her home ten years earlier when her mother left Marissa and her dad. To appease the woman he loves, Matt leaves their Wisconsin home to traverse the Midwest on a journey that might leave the geographically challenged running for an atlas. In 2008 Chicago, children's book author and sometime poet Renee Owen is dealing with her 19-year-old son's enlistment in the military, with the likelihood of his shipping out to Iraq. The stories alternate chapters and eventually come together in this satisfyingly sweet tale of love, commitment, and self-discovery. First novelist Somerville keeps us engaged in this slim novel from the outset. Though readers might guess the connections, they will want to see how the author provides the perfect denouement. Highly recommended for public libraries.
—Bette-Lee Fox

Kirkus Reviews
In this first novel by the author of the story collection Trouble (2006), a young man and, separately, a middle-aged woman test their capacity to love and be loved. As a favor to his pregnant wife, Matt takes a few days off from the plant where he works to try to find the cradle Marissa had as a baby. She wants it for their son. The cradle dates back to the Civil War, and it was stolen when Marissa was 15, around the same time Marissa's mother walked out. Neither has been seen since. With a relative's former address as his only clue, Matt sets off, traveling through towns large and small, from Green Bay, Wis., to Walton, Minn., to Rensselaer, Ind., with a brief detour (via Internet video hook-up) to Antarctica. Along the way, Matt finds much more than he anticipated, including how his own childhood-18 years of foster homes and state agencies-shaped his feelings about family. Ten years later, in a well-heeled neighborhood of Chicago, Renee and her husband Bill prepare to say goodbye to their only son Adam, a Marine who is leaving for Iraq in a matter of days. Affable and bright, Adam believes he has a duty to serve his country-a position not shared by Renee, a children's-book author turned poet who passionately protested the Vietnam War when she was in college. As the family works to keep their last days together normal-they go out for donuts; watch a football game on television-Renee's feelings about Adam's impending departure threaten to tear from her lips a long-buried secret. One not even her husband knows. Somerville's two story lines unfold and ultimately dovetail with a quiet confidence. This meditative novel dignifies small gestures, which bring to life the compelling characters. Abonus is the fresh regional sensibility the author brings to Matt's road trip through the Northern Middle West states. Fresh turf for American fiction from a talented young writer. Agent: Brettne Bloom/Kneerim & Williams

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Little, Brown and Company
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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What People are Saying About This

Gabe Hudson
"Wonderful. Here are stories packed with bighearted humor, serious compassion, and plenty of loopy narrative thrust to keep you turning the pages. Patrick Somerville's characters exist in a modern world where love and cruelty are indistinguishable, and he imbues their struggle with real grace. Oddly tender, dementedly funny, this book is a pleasure to read."--(Gabe Hudson, author of Dear Mr. President)
Stephanie Vaughn
"These gorgeous stories, written with wit and precision, are energized by Patrick Somerville's improvisational humor and the authentic sympathy he brings to the tempest of ordinary lives. It is hard to think of another book quite like this one. Every story is provocative, revelatory, and satisfying."--(Stephanie Vaughn, author of Sweet Talk)
Hannah Tinti
"Trouble is a great collection of stories, full of the true adventures of life and what it means to be a man."--(Hannah Tinti, author of Animal Crackers)

Meet the Author

Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA from CornellUniversity. He is also the author of the story collection Trouble (Vintage, 2006). He lives with his wife in Chicago, where he teaches creative writing at Northwestern University.

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Cradle 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
showcasebear More than 1 year ago
I read alot, trust me, and I try to explore unknown authors, and I am sure glad I did with this book. It takes you on a journey this poor husband goes on for his pregnant wife and turns to take himself on an emotional journey as well. Great book, couldn't put it down
BookLover526 More than 1 year ago
I have mixed emotions about this book. I thought the writing style was excellent and like a previous reviewer, I liked the character of Matt and also found Melissa a bit of a spoiled brat. Having said that, with the alternating stories, I kind of figured out where the plot was going. However, it's a good summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading The Cradle, but a week later I could remember almost nothing about it. It certainly filled the time on a flight from London to New York.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable, nothing special. Quick, can't see that a guy would enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great story.
rundixie More than 1 year ago
Interesting idea of finding a family treasure especially a Cradle, but the story seems to get mixed up in itself and wanders around...much like the searching father to be....too much detail for some parts and then suddenly you are years later and you realize that the second story ( that popped up) ties in the 'other' missing mother , who has experienced the news about the chemical co. fire much earlier in the book while worrying about her second son going to war...sorry, It had good reviews but I was left feeling yucky.!,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not get into the dual story line. No character set up. Confusing, does not bring the reader in.
annonmousCT More than 1 year ago
this was an interesting story about the cradle and Matt, Renee and Joe. 2 stories are taken place at a different time line. Matt being in foster homes and not knowing his mother Renee. Renee can't over her first love that died in war and giving up her child Matt. She moved on with her life and had memories of her first love while her son enrolled in the military. Renee was talking to her son Adam ...in not going to the military but Adam does not know about Renee's first love that died in the war. Matt went in search for a cradle that meant so much to his pregnant wife Marissa that had history all the way to the Civil War. Matt drove miles in search of this cradle and along the way found the cradle from Marissa's relative and also a child that Mariss'a relative did not care for, who happened to be Marissa's 5 year old brother. Matt felt devastated and angry that no one care for this boy name Joe as he himself been in that situation. Matt took Joe as his guardian without any fatherly experience and preparing his pregnant wife the news about Joe and the search of the cradle. By the time Joe was old enough to drive, he drove to find Renee and gave her a letter that was written by Matt when Joe was 5 years old. In the letter, Matt told his biological mother, he was ok with life and the decision she made giving him up, and to ler her know she has a grandson who was born that day name Chris and if she were ever interested in meeting someday. I enjoyed reading the story although it was a bit dragging but I hope there is book 2 to continue where it left off.
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The cradle follows two storylines, one about Matt, a first time father-to-be who has been sent on a mission by his eight-months-pregnant wife to try to get the cradle that she was rocked in as a baby. Her mother abandoned the family some years earlier and the cradle is one of the items she took with her. The second and less interesting storyline is about a middle-aged woman named Renee struggling with the fears she harbors for her 19 year old son who has gone off to war in Iraq, and the memories that well up as a result. The two stories come together near the end. Besides Matt, there didn't seem to be any characters that I really got to know or like much, and that includes Renee. I found the character of Marissa annoying, and from comments throughout the book, I just had the feeling that Matt was always the one that took care of everything, all the time, throughout their married life. I would have liked to get to know Joe better, but his story was just beginning. Marissa's father, Joe's father, and Joe's grandmother all seemed unfinished. This was a touching, tender book but like another reviewer's comments, I suspect there won't be anything of substance that stays with me a few weeks down the road.
Grace2133 More than 1 year ago
The Cradle by Patrick Somerville is definitely a worthy read. The characters are well-drawn and the story is intriguing. I read this book in one two hour commute, so, it is a very quick read and a good distraction. The Cradle consists of two different storylines that weave together. One story follows Matt who is searching for his wife's long lost cradle and the other is about Renee as she deals with her son's decision to enlist in the military. Both stories weave together seamlessly. I really love this type of format. It creates an element of surprise and definitely makes the story more interesting and memorable. These two stories flow really well towards the end but it does take quite a while for the two stories to attain any form of cohesiveness. The beginning seems like two completely different books. I think this works well for this book because it makes the ending come as much more of a surprise. If the book had been longer than its 200 pages it might have become a problem but because of the novel's length, it did not. I had really strong reactions to most of the characters. That is usually how I judge the books I read and these characters definitely elicited some very strong reactions. I loved Matt and Joe. They were such sweet characters. I was sad that Joe was given so little screen time. I wanted to strangle Marissa. She seemed to me like a spoiled little girl who was finally given a chance to be as demanding and annoying as she wanted because of her pregnancy. Honestly, if you want your cradle so bad go and get it yourself. Or at least go with your poor husband. The writing was generally really good. I did find however that the dialogue was a bit clunky at at times but generally not enough to become really noticeable. Also the language in the novel as a whole more than made up for it.
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Twink More than 1 year ago
I think the cover of Patrick Somerville's first novel The Cradle, newly released, is beautiful, as is the story itself. Matt's wife Marissa is eight months pregnant. Out of the blue one morning, she insists that she needs the cradle she remembers from childhood for their child. She thinks the cradle may have ended up with her mother - who walked out on Marissa and her father when Marissa was young. With little information to go on, Matt strikes out on a journey to find and bring home the cradle. In another story line, written ten years later, we meet Renee, whose son is leaving soon for Iraq. Matt's pilgrimage leads him on a personal journey of discovery as his and Renee's story meet in very unexpected ways. I enjoyed the character of Matt very much. He is a thoughtful, patient man with a distinct set of values, despite an unsettled early life. He is someone you could count on to do the right thing. Unfortunately I did not like Marissa at all. She is not written as straight forward as Matt. In the beginning I found her to petulant and unreasonable, determined to have her own way. Although she is somewhat redeemed later in the book, I still found her to be manipulative and never really connected with her character. Renee's storyline, although integral to the plot, dragged for me. The writing seemed slow, ponderous and unnecessarily drawn out. I found myself skimming through some of these paragraphs. "She looked at the dark monitor of the computer. Screen saver, stars. She heard the furnace all the way down in the basement creak to life. The high pitched pulse of the doorbell startled her. She looked over her shoulder...." Some of the metaphors used, although beautiful, seemed to overpower the idea the author was trying to present. This is a quiet, unassuming narrative on the true meaning of love, family and parenthood that will leave you thinking about your own relationships. To qoute Matt; " What he felt was gratitude. Something in him, though , told him that whatever the reasons, for their existence, it had to do with this same feeling. Gratitude." This would make an interesting selection for a book group.
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