Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
By Lorrie Moore
Alfred A Knopf 1994
148 pages
From the library

Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?

Berie Carr is visiting Paris with her husband. The trip reminds her of a pivotal summer of her youth. Berie worked as a ticket collector at an amusement park called Storyland. The repetition of working at a cheesy summer attraction is tempered by working alongside her best friend Silsby. While Berie is the plain Jane, Sils is the beautiful girl who attracts all of the boys and portrays Cinderella at work. The events of this single summer will forever change the lives of both girls and their friendship.

Lorrie Moore is a beautiful writer. I read her novel A Gate At the Stairs a few years ago and thought it was lovely. She unfortunately became one of those writers you read once but forget to follow up on the backlist. I happened to glimpse Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? on a library shelf and decided to read it for the 24 Hour Readathon.

The framing of this story through the eyes of adult Berie didn't really work. It felt somewhat haphazard and I was never sure what in the present caused Berie to think back to her youth. But that aside, the story of Berie and Sils was engaging. It's a seemingly traditional tale of the summer when two friends grow up. Sils is the beautiful and popular one. She has a boyfriend with a motorcycle and when the two friends sneak out to bars, Sils is the recipient of drinks and dances while Berie sits and waits. Berie adores Sils though. When she has the chance to help her friend, she takes it without hesitation or thought for the consequences it will have on her own life.

This novel is a sort of quiet, sincere look at coming of age. Because Berie is looking back through the lens of time and perhaps wisdom, the story lacks an immediacy but gains a great deal of poignancy.There is no doubt  that Lorrie Moore knows how to write a gorgeous sentence:
"Were we just waiting to leave Horsehearts, our friends, enemies, our airless family lives? I often think that at the center of me is a voice that at last did split, a house in my heart so invaded with other people and their speech, friends I believed I was devoted to, people whose lives I can only guess at now, that it gives me the impression I am simply a collection of them, that they all existed for themselves, but had inadvertently formed me, then vanished. But, what: Should I have been expected to create my own self, out of nothing, out of thin, thin air and alone?"

Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? is a quiet story about growing up in a small town. While it is sometimes disconnected, Moore's exquisite voice and her understanding of the impact that our first and greatest friends have on our lives create a quick read that will resonate with readers. 


  1. I hadn't heard of this until now. It sounds so nice! I'm going to add this to my wish list :)

    1. It feels like a more grown-up coming of age story, if that makes sense! I hope you enjoy it. :)

  2. I absolutely LOVE Lorrie Moore. Have you read A Gate at the Stairs? Favorite! I've been meaning to read this one for ages and still haven't done so. I feel that many of her stories are somewhat disconnected and really defines her style. However, I think it's that and the dialogue between characters that really makes her work so enjoyable and different from other writers. You've reminded me that I need to pick her asap. Great review, Lyndsey!

    1. I have read A Gate at the Stairs, but I haven't read any of her short stories! I must get to that one of these days.

  3. Despite its flaws, this sounds terrific. I love the way you described it as a quiet, sincere look at coming of age.

    1. While it is about teenagers, it feels very different from our modern YA. I hope you get a chance to read it!