The Cradle – Book Review

cradle And holding her hands there, as the minister spoke, he realized that love was making him into far more than he ever could have been on his own. He could have sailed around the earth in a hot-air balloon or been a scientist inside a laboratory solving cancer and still those things would have been nothing compared to what she needed him to be, compared to the vessel she was turning him into. – from The Cradle, page 110 –

Matthew and Marissa Bishop are expecting their first baby, and Marissa has decided she must have the old cradle she was once rocked in and which disappeared with her mother six years before. Matthew reluctantly agrees to locate Marissa’s mother and retrieve the cradle…but he has no idea where his search will take him. As Matthew travels first from one small town to the other on his quest, he begins to uncover the secrets of his wife’s family which stir memories of his own childhood he believes he had long ago put to rest. Set in the midwest, The Cradle is a novel about loss, belonging, love, and the tenuous threads that bind us to each other.

The Cradle is actually two parallel stories: that of Matthew and Marissa, and that of an older couple Renee and Bill who are seeing their nineteen year old son off to war in Iraq. Told from these two perspectives, the novel jumps back and forth in time and alludes to connections between the couples. It is not until close to the end that Somerville weaves together the disparate narratives and leaves the reader with a satisfying conclusion.

I was pleasantly surprised by Somerville’s debut novel. My initial reaction is that this would be a “light” read, a bit of romance, more chick lit than anything deeper. I could not have been more wrong. Somerville has a firm grasp of what makes a literary novel throb with life – strong and conflicted characters, internal struggle, and themes which delve deeply into what make us human. I found myself drawn to Matthew, a character who has been damaged and yet elevates himself through the simple act of caring about others.

The Cradle is full of hope and answers the questions: What brings us happiness? What completes us? It is not the material goods we acquire or think we need, rather it is our connection to others which brings us joy. I was deeply moved by this simple, yet compelling novel. I hope that Somerville has many more such stories to share with us.

Highly Recommended.


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    • Kathy on October 25, 2009 at 16:50

    My only complaint with this book was that it ended too soon! I wanted more.

    • molly on October 25, 2009 at 16:56

    WOW — this sounds like one that I must definitely check out!

    • JoAnn on October 25, 2009 at 17:36

    I saw that Bookmarks Magazine listed this among the best of 2009, and now this glowing review…will have to check it out.

    • Jenners on October 29, 2009 at 16:15

    Nice review … it definitely made me want to check out this book!

    • Wendy on October 31, 2009 at 08:09

    Kathy: I know what you mean…it was a quick read!

    Molly: I think you’d like this one.

    JoAnn: Before I actually read this book, I was surprised at the high rating Bookmarks gave it (it just struck me as a light romantic sort of read). But I was wrong…this is a terrific book.

    Jenners: I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on it someday!

    • AMB on December 6, 2012 at 07:42

    I know this review is old, but I just found your blog (which is great, by the way!). This is a terrific review. I read “The Cradle” only a few months ago, after reading Somerville’s public response to the NYT book review for “This Bright River.” I loved “The Cradle.” It was an elegant, sweet story. I haven’t yet read Somerville’s other works, but they’re on my list.

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