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19 May 2010

Book Review: The Cradle by Patrick Somerville


Title: The Cradle
Author: Patrick Somerville
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: April 12, 2010
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 9780316036115
Genre: Fiction

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From the Publisher:

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.


My Review:

Family is the central theme in Patrick Somerville's debut novel The Cradle, which consists of two differing stories told ten years apart. The reader is first introduced to Matt and Marissa, who are expecting their first child and Marissa, eight months pregnant, is insistent that Matt find the Civil War cradle that mysteriously was stolen from her home when she was 15, the day after her mother walked out on her family. Somerville then propels the reader ahead ten years to present day to meet Renee and Bill Owen whose son is heading to Iraq. As the stories unfold the reader learns a lot about Matt's childhood through flashbacks as he drives all over Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana hunting down the cradle for Marissa. In present day the reader sees the loving Owens and their concern over their son going to Iraq and the flood of memories that come back to Renee as she recalls losing her first love in Vietnam. Somerville's writing style is unique, for the most part his characters seem close to insane and some of the events that unfold are questionable, but the end justifies the means in this novel. I would have liked to read more about the Owens, as I liked them, especially Renee. I also liked and felt for Joe and eventually I could understand why Matt was so eager to please, but the rest of the lot I was not so enamored with. The Cradle is a quick read filled with extremely eccentric, quirky, and some bordering on crazy, characters, and a beautiful message. If a reader is looking for a quirky novel with a good ending, then give The Cradle by Patrick Somerville a try.

About the Author:

Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA from Cornell University. 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.

I received a complimentary copy of The Cradle by Patrick Somerville from Reagan Arthur. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.

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1 comment:

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I've been wanting to read this one...I am fascinated with books that delve into family history, uncovering secrets along the way...