May 2010 Indie Next List
“This is a very beautiful, very hopeful story about a man who goes in search of a simple piece of his wife's past--the antique cradle she herself was rocked in--that ends up changing the future for many people. It's about taking chances, getting second chances, and creating families in the most unlikely of ways. It begins as many stories, but ends as one. The smile you will have on your face as you finish the last page of this book is more than worth the price of spending an afternoon with this lovely tale.”
— Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
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 writer, The Cradle is an uniquely imaginative debut novel that radiates with wisdom and wonder.
About the Author
Patrick Somerville is the author of two novels -- This Bright River and The Cradle -- and two books of short stories -- Trouble and The Universe in Miniature. He is also a writer and producer on HBO's acclaimed drama series The Leftovers. He lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles.
"A magical debut novel...A deeply gratifying modern fable...with the light, graceful touch that makes Mr. Somerville someone to watch. ..As a small novel with unexpectedly wide range, THE CRADLE mixes the profound emotional pull of parent-child connections with comically eccentric touches."—Janet Maslin, New York Times
"A lean, moving tale.... THE CRADLE emerges swift and cinematic, an epic story told in a series of artfully curated, wonderfully rendered scenes...As a writer, I'm still wondering how Somerville created this exquisitely complex story on a small canvas. As a reader, I'm glad he did."—Dean Bakopoulos, New York Times Book Review
"A surprisingly tender novel...What matters are Somerville's characters, rendered with such warm appreciation of their complexity and resilience that, although he declines to predict their future, we have every reason to hope they will continue making slow, tentative progress toward healing the wounds of the past."—Wendy Smith, Chicago Tribune
"A lovely, finely wrought tale of unlikely redemption. In prose that floats so lightly as to seem effortless, Somerville takes the reader on unlikely journeys that results in unexpected consequences.... THE CRADLE is a slim volume, with prose that slides down easily - so easily that the emotions it explores can sneak up on the reader...The final pages of the novel are surprisingly satisfying and right. Somerville has many gifts, not the least of which is the ability to sketch his characters with firm strokes that leave no doubt as to their distinct and varied humanity. The resulting work is nothing short of a surprising treat."—Robin Vidimos, Denver Post
"The link between the characters...is uncovered with a slow grace. But the story's real centerpiece is Matt's rapport with Joe. Their spare conversation is beautifully written, with lines of painstaking clarity. The weight of what Matt is doing-speaking, in a way, to his younger self-manages gravity while dodging self-seriousness, a particular gift in a debut novel."—Melissa Albert, Time Out Chicago
"Poignant and funny...a well-wrought, often comical exploration of contemporary fatherhood."—Joseph Peschel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A heartwarming debut...a fast-paced, compassionate, moral book. . . . the author succeeds beautifully in describing Matt's journey, which is both a harrowing road adventure and a journey of self-discovery."—Anthony Bukowski, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"A fine first effort and a rewarding read."—Carole Goldberg, Hartford Courant
"[Matt's] search, in Patrick Somerville's brilliant (and short!) debut novel is heartfelt, yes, but full of wild turns."—David Daley, Louisville Courier-Journal
"This slim and rather unusual road novel is very satisfying. . . . because [Somerville] manages to somehow pack a pretty epic family story into such a concentrated punch of a book, THE CRADLE is the kind of novel you can read in a single sitting on a rainy spring Sunday."—Bobby Tanzillo, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"The Cradle weaves together two tightly drawn tales of family history. One story moves forward, as an expectant father goes on a journey across America on a quest for a stolen cradle. The other travels backward, while a middle-aged woman reminisces about her long-lost lover, who died in Vietnam. Slowly, these two narratives begin cross, until they are interlocked like fingers-two hands reaching for each other until, there it is-the connection. Patrick Somerville has given us a novel of great depth and feeling that explores love, manhood, sacrifice and the most important bond of all-parenthood."—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
"The Cradle is a story of family and the connections across time that define our lives in secret and surprising ways. It is a vivid story of renewal and a new beginning. Patrick Somerville is a storyteller you will not forget. The Cradle gives me new confidence in the future of American fiction."—Robert Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of Gap Creek
"I read Patrick Somerville's debut novel, The Cradle, in one sitting--I couldn't put it down. What begins as a man's whimsical quest to recover an antique cradle for his wife becomes a wild road trip where the past keeps pace with the present and the moral stakes become almost unbearably high. The novel's protagonist, Matt, is rendered with such intelligence, humor, and emotional acuity that I feel like I know myself better for having met him. This is an unforgettable meditation on what it means to be a parent, a child, and part of a family."—Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
"There is a yearning within Patrick Somerville's writing that is undeniable. What starts here as page-turner in the end becomes a story of redemption and rebirth. The Cradle is a stirring debut that will leave you wanting more."—Oscar Casares, author of Amigoland and Brownsville
"Like a magic trick, The Cradle will make you blink, chew your lip, try to figure out how he did it, how in the world Patrick Somerville managed to sneak this big, beautiful story of familial love into such a slender novel--a saga writ small, swiftly paced, intricately structured, precisely told."—Benjamin Percy, author of Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk
"There I am, minding my own business, and from out of nowhere comes this crazy perfect thing. The Cradle is a miniature American odyssey that you love for its simplicity, until you realize it isn't simple at all, and then you love it even more. Somerville is a rookie who writes like a veteran, and by the time he's a veteran, he'll be writing like a God."—J. Robert Lennon, author of Castle and The Light of Falling Stars
"This meditative novel dignifies small gestures, which bring to life the compelling characters. A bonus 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."—Kirkus
"[A] spare, elegant first novel...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."—Publishers Weekly
"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."—Library Journal
"With highly charged lyricism and dramatic concision, Somerville gracefully illuminates what children need, all that war demands, and how amends are made and sorrows are woven into the intricate tapestry of life."—Booklist