Working double shifts at the plant and trying to save every penny that he can in anticipation of he and his wife’s first child, Matt is hesitant when his wife Marissa comes to him with the request that he find and retrieve an antique Civil War cradle that she had as a child, and which her mother stole from her childhood home after abandoning her husband and daughter when Marissa was just fifteen-years- old. Matt questions Marissa on the value and difference that this particular cradle can possibly make in their lives and the lives of their baby, but Marissa is insistent and even as he resists, Matt knows that he will do this for her.
Luckily for Matt he quickly gets a lead on where to start inquiries on the cradle, but the journey that he takes to make his wife happy leads him to thoughts of the past he wishes would stay buried and changes in his family life that he never anticipated and for which he is not quite prepared.
I first remember seeing reviews of this a while back, but for some reason I was thinking that it was probably some creepy horror story. I think the cover had a lot to do with that. Empty cradle, shoes hanging from said cradle- whatever story this was telling could not be good. Even though I don’t usually read a lot of horror because of my well formed and overactive imagination, I was still up for reading this book and was pleasantly surprised with the story that I found.
Somerville does an excellent job of setting up two stories which you immediately suspect will converge at some point, but until then you are on pins and needles trying to figure out why and how it will all come together. In addition to Matt and Marissa’s story, we are also introduced to Renee, a woman who has just seen her twenty-year old son enlist in the army to fight in the war against her strong objections to what he is doing. Renee is incredibly anxious and seems to be haunted by a terrible secret that originated before she married.
Though The Cradle is a scant 20o pages, it is packed with colorful characters and meaningful characterizations, so I always felt that I was grounded in the story and understood why most of the characters acted as they did. I also had those suspenseful moments when I wondered how certain events would affect Matt given his background. I cared enough about him to hope that he would be able to keep it together and make appropriate choices.
I loved getting to the end of the journey that Matt went on to bring back the cradle for his pregnant wife. This was a story about family and what comprises a family, and the lengths that people will go to in order to protect what they hold dear. The cradle brought everyone to a different place than where they started out, and a fascinating story to sit an contemplate. Usually a novel of this length would leave me unsatisfied and with questions but Somerville does a nice job of not only moving his story along but also revealing his characters. I am looking forward to reading more of his work.