Tag Archives: University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Cradle by Patrick Somerville


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. 

This is the debut novel by Patrick Somerville and I for one think that is extremely well written and full of life…not an easy feat for a book that is just over 200 pages in length.  This book actually consists of two stories.  The first story centers around Matt and Marissa.  Both of them have had issues of abandonment due to issues revolving around their childhood, so when Marissa finds out she is pregnant she feels the need to have the antique cradle from her years of infancy.  When Marissa’s mother left the family she took the cradle with her.  It is imperative to Marissa that she has this cradle, so Matt is off on a mission to find it.  And quite a mission it is as he follows the path that the cradle has taken.

In a separate story set 10 years later we are introduced to Renee.  Her son has decided to join the military and this has brought about a flood of memories that she would rather have kept hidden.  These stories intersect and although the outcome was not a total surprise, it was still very well written and tied up nicely.

I really enjoyed this book and look foward to reading more by this author!

Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA in creative writing from Cornell University. He is the author of the story collection Trouble (Vintage, 2006), and his writing has appeared in One Story, Epoch and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007. He lives with his wife in Chicago, and is currently the Blattner Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern University.

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