by Laura Baudo Sillerman

The New York Times Book Review practically dripped with saliva when this first novel was reviewed.  Can a first novel– particularly one so compact– be so good?


The spareness of The Cradle mirrors the simplicity of the complicated—the nakedness of truth,  if you will.  The structure of the novel is lovely.  We join two seemingly disparate households of two different generations, one spotlighting a husband on a VisionQuest, the other focused on a wife unable to turn away from what she must face.

You will care about the young husband, Matt, who has survived the wounds of foster childhood through what Barbara Kingsolver calls looking hard, “for a long time,  at a single glorious thing.”   That glorious thing is his wife Marissa’s forthright dedication to what she knows to be important.

The 58-year-old Renee, on the other hand, has lived an almost-honest life as a wife, mother and children’s book author, but has maybe only survived.  We are caught up in the questions of how she withstood what one American war did to her and if she can withstand what another might do to her son.

Somerville is a graceful but humble writer, in full possession of his gifts but seemingly free of the need to over-impress.  He most likely is capable of imbedding lyric poetry in his paragraphs, but he seems confident enough to leave it at simple storytelling, letting us know that sometimes a woman on a park bench is all the poetry we need.

This is a lovely, lovely novel.  That isn’t meant to be the least bit damning with faint praise.  Loveliness is in short supply right about now and very precious because it reminds us that what is important is a kind of fidelity to the miracle of the everyday—particularly if we can remember to live each day with an understanding of the beating of our own true hearts.

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  • Just Write Blog Carnival April 10, 2009 Edition | Incurable Disease of Writing January 12, 2010 at 1:05 am

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