The Cradle


Author: Patrick Somerville

Title: The Cradle

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 200

Geographical Setting: St. Helen’s, Wisconsin; Suburban Chicago, Illinois; Minnesota; and Indiana

Time Period: 1997; 2008

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Young, married couple, Marissa and Matt Bishop, are expecting their first child soon, but both continue to struggle with abandonment from their own childhoods. Marissa is determined to locate a family heirloom, an antique cradle that she slept in as a baby, but that her mother took when she left her family over ten years ago. Matt, a devoted husband who grew up in multiple foster homes, agrees to locate the cradle for Marissa and their baby. As he leaves their home in small town Wisconsin, he promises Marissa to keep anything he finds out about her mother a secret. Meanwhile, in suburban Chicago, Renee Owen is struggling to support her son, Adam’s, enlistment to serve as a marine in Iraq. Renee writes to forget about the dangers of Adam’s deployment, but instead brings up memories of her first love, a man killed in the Vietnam War, and a secret she has never told her husband or Adam. As Matt travels across the Midwest to locate the cradle for Marissa, he learns that her mother continues to repeat her past mistakes, and discovers a secret that will change their lives forever

Subject Headings: Childhood; Motherhood; Family secrets; Cradles; Heirlooms; Abandonment (Psychology); Family relationships; Adult child abuse victims; War; lost love; Domestic fiction

Appeal: Engrossing; unhurried; bittersweet; candid; sympathetic characters; multiple points of view; family-centered; layered storyline; small-town; stark frame; frank; and homespun

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: Bittersweet; family-centered; and homespun

Similar Authors and Works:


  • From Our House: A Memoir by Lee Martin: Rural setting; dysfunctional family dynamics; frank descriptions of the author’s relationship with his father
  • Once In a House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth: A bittersweet and candid account of growing up with an abusive stepfather and the effect it had on the author’s relationship with her mother
  • The Day He Left for Iraq: A Story of Love, Family, and Reunion by Melissa Seligman: Changes in family relationships; A frank account the feelings of abandonment a mother feels when her husband leaves for the war in Iraq


  • Without a Backwards Glance by Kate Veitch: Sympathetic characters; Siblings reunited with their mother who abandoned them as children; Multiple points of view
  • A Blessed Event by Jean Reynolds Page: Sympathetic main character; Secrets about family relationships; Small town Texan frame
  • The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Kate Singer: Mother and daughter relationships and abandonment; Family secrets; Multiple points of view; layered storyline across different points in time

Name: Rebecca Dorsey


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