The Universe in Miniature in Miniature - November 2010
In this genre-busting book from award-winning novelist Patrick Somerville characters, stories, and stray thoughts revolve around the “The Machine of Understanding Other People,” the story of a Chicago man who is bequeathed a supernatural helmet that allows him to experience the inner worlds of those around him. Through his lonely lens we peer into the mind of an art student grappling with ennui, ethics and empathy as she comes to terms with her own beliefs in a godless world. We telescope out to the story of idiot extraterrestrials struggling to pilot a complicated spaceship. We follow a retired mercenary as he tries to save his marriage and questions his life abroad. Mind-bending and cracklingly new, Somerville’s broadly appealing and uniquely imaginative constructions probe the outer reaches of sympathy, death, and love in a world seen from the inside out.
Patrick Somerville has perfect pitch across the thirty-odd voices in these stories, gets perfect reception from past and future both. He is funny and sad and scalpel-sharp, at times all in the same sentence. This book contains worlds within worlds. Every single one of them enriches ours. -Roy Kesey, Author of All Over
Patrick Somerville is the most devastatingly sensitive badass nerd in contemporary lit—he is as consistently inventive and surprising as anyone writing today. I love this book, with its weird art and crazy machines and secret agents and out-of-control love. It’s as if Optimus Prime has folded himself up into a story collection. -J. Robert Lennon, Author of Castle
The Cradle - March 2009
An elusive heirloom cradle symbolizes childhood’s pains and possibilities in Somerville’s spare, elegant first novel. 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. -Publisher’s Weekly
A lean, moving tale…. THE CRADLE emerges swift and cinematic, an epic story told in a series of artfully curated, wonderfully rendered scenes…As a writer, I’m still wondering how Somerville created this exquisitely complex story on a small canvas. As a reader, I’m glad he did. -New York Times Book Review, Dean Bakopoulos
Poignant and funny…a well-wrought, often comical exploration of contemporary fatherhood. -St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joseph Peschel
Trouble - September 2006
For the trouble-making, trouble-seeking, and just plain deeply troubled, these are the tales of our compatriots! Whip smart and generous of heart, Trouble is an outrageously funny glimpse into the life of the American male.
You know you’re in an interesting world when you read a first line like, ‘I had been involved in pressurized and spray-on cheeses for over a decade’…The teenage boys and adult men in this collection exist mostly in the age of the Internet, video games, DVDs, 100-channel TV and a host of other fantasy-oriented gadgets. It’s no wonder their lives veer into the absurd and magical, even as they cannot avoid the tragedies of an increasingly frustrating human condition. The men making and experiencing trouble in this exciting new collection may be surrounded by modes of sophisticated communication, but their most important pronouncements usually fall on deaf ears. -The Chicago Tribune