I think the cover of Patrick Somerville's first novel The Cradle, newly released, is beautiful, as is the story itself.
Matt's wife Marissa is eight months pregnant. Out of the blue one morning, she insists that she needs the cradle she remembers from childhood for their child. She thinks the cradle may have ended up with her mother - who walked out on Marissa and her father when Marissa was young. With little information to go on, Matt strikes out on a journey to find and bring home the cradle. In another story line, written ten years later, we meet Renee, whose son is leaving soon for Iraq. Matt's pilgrimage leads him on a personal journey of discovery as his and Renee's story meet in very unexpected ways.
I enjoyed the character of Matt very much. He is a thoughtful, patient man with a distinct set of values, despite an unsettled early life. He is someone you could count on to do the right thing. Unfortunately I did not like Marissa at all. She is not written as straight forward as Matt. In the beginning I found her to petulant and unreasonable, determined to have her own way. Although she is somewhat redeemed later in the book, I still found her to be manipulative and never really connected with her character.
Renee's storyline, although integral to the plot, dragged for me. The writing seemed slow, ponderous and unnecessarily drawn out. I found myself skimming through some of these paragraphs.
"She looked at the dark monitor of the computer. Screen saver, stars. She heard the furnace all the way down in the basement creak to life. The high pitched pulse of the doorbell startled her. She looked over her shoulder...."
Some of the metaphors used, although beautiful, seemed to overpower the idea the author was trying to present.
This is a quiet, unassuming narrative on the true meaning of love, family and parenthood that will leave you thinking about your own relationships. To qupte Matt;
" What he felt was gratitude. Something in him, though , told him that whatever the reasons, for their existence, it had to do with this same feeling. Gratitude."
This would make an interesting selection for a book group. A reading group guide can be found here. Or you can read an excerpt here.