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The Cradleby Patrick Somerville
"At first blush, Somerville's debut endeavors to explore territory that many writers have stumbled over (and stumbled badly), but Somerville doesn't miss a step. The Cradle is more than a high concept hook, it's a hugely engaging read with characters you'll fall in love with and a plot full of surprises." Jim Ruland, Gently Read Literature (Read the entire Gently Read review)
Synopses & Reviews
Early one summer morning, Matthew Bishop kisses his still-sleeping wife Marissa, gets dressed and eases his truck through Milwaukee, bound for the highway. His wife, pregnant with their first child, has asked him to find the antique cradle taken years before by her mother Caroline when she abandoned Marissa, never to contact her daughter again. Soon to be a mother herself, Marissa now dreams of nothing else but bringing her baby home to the cradle she herself slept in. His wife does not know — does not want to know — where her mother lives, but Matt has an address for Caroline's sister near by and with any luck, he will be home in time for dinner.
Only as Matt tries to track down his wife's mother, he discovers that Caroline, upon leaving Marissa, has led a life increasingly plagued by impulse and irrationality, a mysterious life that grows more inexplicable with each new lead Matt gains, and door he enters. As hours turn into days and Caroline's trail takes Matt from Wisconsin to Minnesota, Illinois, and beyond in search of the cradle, Matt makes a discovery that will forever change Marissa's life, and faces a decision that will challenge everything he has ever known.
Elegant and astonishing, Patrick Somerville tells the story of one man's journey into the heart of marriage, parenthood, and what it means to be a family. Confirming the arrival of an exuberantly talented new writer, The Cradle is an uniquely imaginative debut novel that radiates with wisdom and wonder.
"An elusive heirloom cradle symbolizes childhood's pains and possibilities in Somerville's spare, elegant first novel (after a story collection, Trouble). Marissa, pregnant with her first child, becomes obsessed with tracking down the antique cradle her mother took when she abandoned the family a decade earlier. Marissa's husband, Matt, is sure he's been dispatched on a fool's errand, but his journey soon connects him to Marissa's family and his own history of abandonment, neglect and abuse amid a string of foster homes and orphanages. Matt's quest through four states is interwoven with another drama that takes place 11 years later, in 2008, in which poet and children's author Renee Owen is haunted by memories of war and a lost love as she prepares to send her son off to fight in Iraq. Again, long-buried secrets come to the surface, one of which poignantly links the two story lines. Though the connection will not shock, Somerville's themes of a broader sense of interconnectivity and the resultant miracles of everyday existence retain their strength and affirm the value of forming and keeping families." Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.)
"Somerville's prose calmly, relentlessly pulls at the Gothic skein of family tragedies that lurks behind the peeling paint and sagging porches, where a sense of inherited sin settles like a thick fog." Washington Post
"[A]n epic story told in a series of artfully curated, wonderfully rendered scenes." New York Times Book Review
"Somerville keeps us engaged in this slim novel from the outset. Though readers might guess the connections, they will want to see how the author provides the perfect denouement. Highly recommended" Library Journal
"A magical debut novel" (New York Times), The Cradle radiates with wry wisdom and candor as it takes the reader on a surprising journey into the heart of marriage, parenthood, and what it means to be a family.
Heir to A Confederacy of Dunces and Being There, Panorama City is a wildly entertaining and surreptitiously moving novel about a self-described "slow absorber" named Oppen Porter, who records everything he thinks his unborn son will find useful in becoming a man of the world.
Oppen Porter, a self-described “slow absorber,” thinks hes dying. Hes not, but from his hospital bed, he unspools into a cassette recorder a tale of self-determination, from village idiot to man of the world, for the benefit of his unborn son.
Written in an astonishingly charming and wise voice, Panorama City traces forty days and nights navigating the fast food joints, storefront churches, and home-office psychologists of the San Fernando Valley. Ping-ponging between his watchful and sharp-tongued aunt and an outlaw philosopher with the face "of a newly hatched crocodile," Oppen finds himself constantly in the sights of people who believe that their way is the only way for him.
Open-hearted, bicycle-riding, binocular-toting Oppen Porter is "an American original" (Stewart O'Nan) for whom finding one's own way is both a delightful art and a painstaking science. Disarmingly funny and surreptitiously moving, Panorama City makes us see the world, and our place in it, with new eyes.
About the Author
Patrick Somerville grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned his MFA from Cornell University. He is also the author of the story collection Trouble (Vintage, 2006). He lives with his wife in Chicago, where he teaches creative writing at Northwestern University.
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