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The Cradle

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  1,582 Ratings  ·  350 Reviews
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Marissa is expecting her first child and fixated on securing the same cradle she was once rocked in for her own baby. But her mother, Caroline, disappeared when Marissa was a teenager, and the treasured cradle mysteriously vanished shortly thereafter. Marissa's husband, Matthew, kindly agrees to try to track down the cradle, whi
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published March 9th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
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Nov 30, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
The Cradle is full of surprises. On the surface, it doesn’t have a lot to recommend it. It’s a shaggy dog tale that is essentially a glorified road trip. And if you take a look at the pieces of the story it does all kinds of things that go against the grain. I took a craft class with Mary Akers this summer and she presented examples of fiction that break the rules of the established order. Somerville’s The Cradle would make a great case study:

1) Road trip: A series of scenes takes the place of a
Mike Ingram
Apr 20, 2009 Mike Ingram rated it it was amazing
I'm not giving this book five stars because Patrick Somerville gave us (Barrelhouse) a story or because he seems like a genuinely decent human being whose success I'd be more than happy to help along in my tiny, tiny way. I was prepared to give it five stars for those reasons, but then the book turned out to be amazingly good. It's not flashy, the prose is deceptively simple, there are no tricks. Well, okay, there's one trick, but it's not even a trick, really, just an interesting temporal/struc ...more
Apr 19, 2009 Noah rated it it was ok
A slim book in terms of length and depth. Too many coincidences and deliberately quirky characters. Avoids some of the deeper emotions to which it alludes. Reads like a literary version of a weepy movie-of-the-week. A kernel of the real exists here, but it's swamped by sentimentality.
Sep 16, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
I loved this short and bittersweet novel. A young man, Matthew, and his wife, Marissa, are expecting their first child. I knew I was going to like Matthew when he thinks that he knows his wife is a little bit crazy but he loves her anyway.

Marissa is the daughter of a mother who took off. Matt is virtually an orphan because his mother gave him up at birth. Something about all this makes it understandable that Marissa asks him to find the cradle in which she slept as a baby and that Matt agrees t
Jason Pettus
Dec 25, 2009 Jason Pettus rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

I had been looking forward to Patrick Somerville's debut novel The Cradle for some time now; after all, he's a Chicago-based author with whom I share several mutual friends, and this slim title of his has picked up lots of local accolades this year, one of what I consider the most talked-about Chicag
Mocha Girl
Oct 11, 2009 Mocha Girl rated it it was ok
With only about 200 pages in its entirety, The Cradle has a rather immediate opening with Matt's very pregnant wife, Marissa, insisting he find her long-lost antique cradle from childhood. We quickly discover, via a series of flashbacks, that both Matt and Marissa have unresolved issues from their youth, stemming from Matt's adoption and foster care experiences and Marissa's mother's unexplained abandonment. In the first of many "coincidences," Marissa's father recalls the last known address of ...more
Aug 15, 2010 Todd rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book for various reasons. The Upper Midwest setting not only was familiar to me, but the author nailed the attitudes and speech patterns of the area. Most of all, I appreciated the protagonist. Matt could have been portrayed as a person whose difficult childhood made him a mess as an adult, but instead, apart from a moment or two, he had a full, competent grasp on life. I also liked seeing a young, lower-middle class family portrayed, a socio-economic group that is woefully l ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Renetta rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-book
This is a great story. The protagonist, Matt, goes on a journey in search of a cradle his wife had when she was young. This journey becomes so much more. Matt travels all over the Midwest (I liked this since I am from the Midwest) meeting some very selfish individuals and learns of a secret, he now has to decide if he should share this with his wife. I really felt a connection to Matt and his overwhelming feeling of gratitude toward life.

There was a second story told also of Renee and a secret t
Feb 14, 2010 Matthew rated it it was ok
Premise seemed so absurd--pregnant wife asks husband to find Civil-War-era cradle she was once rocked in--that I thought, okay, this has got to be good. Turned out: I was wrong. Some momentum generated in the beginning, and yeah, the two plot lines are able to summon a bit of mystery, but the fact that this is a quest lends itself to the sort of pitfalls you'd expect, mainly that what we get is a number of flat, stereotypical characters. Doesn't help that the writing itself is dull masquerading ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Kevin rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful and haunting novel that snuck up on me. It seems like a simple story at first but around page 81 it really picks up steam and I felt myself almost obsessed with the story. It became a propulsive reading experience after that, one in which I felt close to the characters--maybe I even cried a little at some point. I think this book might get pretty huge once it's out in paperback and if a movie is actually made of it (it was optioned recently). A superb piece of work from Mr. So ...more
Diane Chamberlain
Jun 29, 2009 Diane Chamberlain rated it really liked it
The writing is lovely and engaging, and I was with the author till the final quarter of the book. Then I wanted more resolution, or at least more of a resolution that worked for me. I felt as though I'd spent a lot of energy investing in and caring about the characters, but with a leap in time, they were given short shrift and I felt a bit cheated by getting to see what made them change the way they did. I'm the author of commercial fiction, and that may be the problem: I like closure.
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
**Warning: May contain spoilers.**

It’s 1997 and Matt and Marissa are a young married couple expecting their first baby in a month or so. Marissa’s mother left her family when Marissa was 15 and Matt is an orphan. When Marissa is 8 months pregnant she decides the baby must have the cradle she slept in as a child and wants Matt to get it for her. The problem is that Marissa’s mother took the cradle with her when she left. The only lead Matt has is an address for Marissa’s aunt (her mother’s sister
Alex Mattingly
Sep 18, 2014 Alex Mattingly rated it it was amazing
I like anti-heroes as much as anybody, but there's also something satisfying about spending time with a character you admire. In 'The Cradle,' Matthew Bishop sets out to retrieve a lost heirloom cradle for his wife. What follows is the story of a man trying to build a family in a world where evil is a real and insidious force.

There are no serial killers, there are no fanged demons from hell. What's frightening about the evil portrayed in this book is how careless it is, how ordinary. In the face
Dec 09, 2012 Labmom rated it it was amazing
Short, powerful, well-written and so touchingly sad but not maudlin, sweetly hopeful, wonderful characterization. All so impressive in a debut that I could finish in a few hours. Just .. wow. Sometimes you find these tender little jewels of books and are stunned at how good they are. Like Amy Bloom and Kent Haruf, I wonder where have you been and why aren't you winning prizes and making millions on slim beautiful books and why don't you write more. And then I remember I live in a world that idol ...more
Dec 07, 2009 Nicolemauerman rated it liked it
This very short book is about a man who is sent to retrieve a cradle that belonged to his wife's mother. Both the main characters in this novel have been abandoned by their mothers and through the course of the book the characters are made to confront their past. I felt indifferent about this book. I finished the book relatively quickly, so obviously it wasn’t horrible, but I felt that there were a lot of crazy situations and coincidences. The unresolved ending is thought provoking, but I was su ...more
Feb 05, 2010 Jackie rated it liked it
Is this a likely story? No. But it is a very beautiful, very hopeful story. It's 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, 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 ...more
Marcy Dermansky
Jul 13, 2012 Marcy Dermansky rated it it was amazing
This book was a complete surprise and such a good one. I loved it.

I am glad that Patrick Somerville got a bad review in the New York Tims for his newest novel, which led to a fine article in about a strange experience he had with the fact checkers at the Times who wrote to the email address of one of his characters, which led me to pick up his first novel in the English book section of a German bookstore.
Dec 11, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
A story of family - what it means to build a family when you have grown up without one or with a fractured one. I liked the main thread of the story much better than the secondary thread and thought they were tied together rather artificially.
Jun 15, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
"How often do voices in your head talk to you?" Darren asked.


"Not even your own voice?"

"I do think, if that's what you mean." (98)

"Okay, then," Matt said. "And also, we'll be needing one nice pair of Spider-Man underpants. Wouldn't you know it?" (154)
MK Brunskill-Cowen
Jan 11, 2010 MK Brunskill-Cowen rated it liked it
What an intriguing book! When Marissa sends her husband Matt out to recover her childhood cradle, he has no idea where the request will take him or what he will find at the end. It's very much an allegory for life - Matt seeks one thing, but finds another.
Kristen Balas
Jul 27, 2014 Kristen Balas rated it it was ok
Shelves: poor-writing
Boring. This guy is not a great writer. The story was dull and predictable. The characters were uninteresting. I gave it two stars because it was short enough to give me something to do while I waited for my car to get fixed.
Sep 25, 2010 Toni rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
Picking up this book I expected to have a light piece of entertainment to accompany a long plane ride. What I got was a surprisingly good story. This is Somerville's first novel. I hope it is not his last.
 Barb Bailey
Jan 02, 2016 Barb Bailey rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, novella, 2015
This is an unusual interlocking tale . All three of the main characters in this story were abandoned by their Mothers. Matthew, Marissa and Joe come together and make a family in a sad and unexpected way. The ending was one of hope for resolution. Only 200 pages , quick read.....solid 3 stars.
Doris Smith
Jan 17, 2017 Doris Smith rated it liked it
This book "Cradle" was recommended by a friend.

Marissa, pregnant with their first child, asks her husband Matthew to retrieve the cradle in which she had been when she was a baby. The problem is that the cradle was stolen perhaps by her mother who abandoned the family when Marissa was young. Where the cradle was now was a mystery. One that Matthew eventually finds, but at the same time learns about both his family and his wife's. A story that holds your interest and is a quick read.
Natalie Cherne
Nov 24, 2016 Natalie Cherne rated it liked it
This book was a fairly quick read. It could be hard to follow, but the author had good intentions. I wish it delved deeper into some relationships, but I understood what Somerville wanted to do.
Feb 14, 2010 William rated it really liked it

One of the first signs of the felicitous writing in this short novel is the graceful switch between voices in the first two chapters, from Matt, a man in his twenties who is about to become a father and who is charged by his wife, Marissa, with a mysterious task; to Renee, a woman in her fifties who has a secret. From there the novel takes Matt on a classic American road trip, but with a difference -- this picaresque journey has a serious purpose, in the noble tradition of the Grail quest. Inter
Apr 08, 2011 Jenny rated it it was amazing
One of the blurbs on the back of my copy of this book really sums it up:

"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


Now...she felt what she always felt when she looked at her face - glad it was her own but surprised this
Patrick Faller
Sep 15, 2010 Patrick Faller rated it really liked it
Not the least of the many successes in Patrick Somerville's first novel is the way Mr. Somerville breathes life into a plot that comes dangerously close to resembling Lifetime television fare by creating some of the more well-rounded and engaging characters to pop up in recent fiction. There's Matthew Bishop, the novel's protagonist: an expectant father possessing a work ethic and code of values he's not quite able to articulate but which nonetheless governs his actions. When his wife Marissa in ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Sunsettowers rated it liked it
This is a very well-written book, deceptively simple but filled with layers. It ostensibly tells two stories: that of Matt, sent on a seemingly-impossible quest by his pregnant wife Marissa, to find the cradle her mother stole when she abandoned her family; and that of Renee, a popular children's book author who is trying to write poetry as she worries about her soldier son.

But there are complex stories that spring out from these two tales. Somerville is telling the story of families and how the
Apr 18, 2009 Cari rated it really liked it
This book was quite short, for all that was packed into it. I frequently found myself thinking of it as a fable. The two main characters are very clearly drawn, but in pencil - no extra colors or shapes or irritating background scenes, just their "beings," if that makes any sense at all. Their histories are told in short bursts that focus only on the critical memories that have shaped who they are. As someone who frequently wonders why I don't remember more than I do and why I remember the rando ...more
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I'm a fiction writer from Wisconsin, living in Chicago.
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