The Cradle by Patrick Somerville

September 8, 2010

This book is the first novel by its author, Patrick Somerville, though it certainly isn’t his first writing attempt. He also published a book of short stories in 2006, called Trouble, and he teaches creative writing at the college level. Lucky for all of his, he finds time to write, because if all of his writing is like this first novel, we readers are in for a long and joyful ride.

As we are introduced to the main characters, we meet Matt and Marissa, a young couple who are to become parents within the next month. Far from being settled and ready for the new baby, Marissa is agitated and wants Matt to find the baby cradle that was a family heirloom from the Civil War era, and that she herself had been rocked to sleep in. The problem with that is the cradle disappeared some years ago after Marissa’s mother left when she was only 15 years old and Matt has no clue where to begin to search for her mother or the cradle. Nevertheless, wanting to please his young bride, Matt sets off on a journey, armed with a tip from Marissa’s father about the last known address for her mother. Several twists and turns later, Matt finally comes across the object of his wife’s affection, but he finds way more than he ever bargained for as well. Forced to make some extremely difficult decisions, Matt stands up to his past and forever changes the future for his family.

The plot thickens as we are also introduced to another family which seems to be unrelated. The mother, Renee, is a children’s book author, and is seeing her son off to war in Iraq, though she is quite opposed and distressed by this course of action. To comfort her, her spouse takes her on vacation in Hawaii. Inadvertently mixing up some sleeping pills with her son’s ADHD medication, she writes feverishly during the entire flight from the Midwest to the islands. She lets all the pent-up emotions of the last twenty years bleed all over the paper, and when she’s through she tells her husband about the son she gave up for adoption when her boyfriend was killed in Vietnam.

These two stories alternate through the book, and become intertwined. The real story that Patrick Somerville seems to be teaching us is one of facing your past head-on, and moving forward with the greater knowledge about how it has brought you to the point where you are.

This is a critically acclaimed book, and it was listed on a number of “Best of 2009” lists, including the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I love this book, and think it is a great first novel. He writes succinctly, and his prose is simple and rhythmic, which makes it quick and easy to read.  I only wish that his publisher would release The Cradle in audio book format, as I would love to take a leisurely drive and hear the story over again.

Guest post by Denise Gabbard for Discount Vouchers, where you will find discounts and promo codes for Argos.

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