(Little, Brown, $21.99)

Patrick Somerville’s “lean, moving” first novel contains enough drama to fill a book three times its length, said Dean Bakopoulos in The New York Times. “Like the good Midwesterners it depicts, it wastes no time,” and quickly dispatches its protagonist on a defining mission. When Matt Bishop’s very pregnant wife asks him to track down the cradle in which she was rocked as a baby, the young factory worker fills up his tank and starts knocking on doors. Events force Matt, a former foster child, into self-examination, and it soon becomes clear that he’s on a “collision course” with an older character whom we meet just as she’s preparing to send a son off to the war in Afghanistan.

“We don’t know everything” about these people’s histories, but we don’t need to, said Wendy Smith in the Chicago Tribune. What’s important is that the characters are “rendered with such warm appreciation for their complexity and resilience.”

The Cradle develops into a “deeply gratifying modern fable,” said Janet Maslin, also in the Times. Somerville’s “light, graceful touch” when writing about complicated emotions marks the 29-year-old as “someone to watch.”