“The book started out a lot more like a big happy Love Boat episode, then 9/11 (and all that followed) happened and blew it in a new direction.”–Chris Adrian (McSweeney’s interview)
Chris Adrian’s 2006 novel The Children’s Hospital begins with the end of the world. A flood of (excuse me) biblical proportions drowns every living thing on earth with the exception of a children’s hospital which has been specially engineered with the aid of an angel to withstand both the flood as well as life at sea. The residents of the newly nautical hospital–doctors, med students, specialists, nurses, some 699 sick children, portions of their families and sundry others–must navigate an uncertain future drenched in despair and loss. Their mission of helping the ill is the only thing that sustains them–initially.
Central to the story is Jemma Claflin, a mediocre third-year med student with a haunted past. Years before the deluge, each member of her family and her long-term boyfriend died in a horrific way, leaving Jemma unable to love, let alone believe in a positive future. However, as the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Jemma will have to best her fear and become the hero of this epic novel.
I really, really enjoyed The Children’s Hospital. Adrian’s writing communicates a stirring mix of immediacy and pathos, tempered in a cynical humor that sharply bites at any hint of sentimentality. Despite its 615 pages, epic scale, and use of multiple narrative viewpoints, The Children’s Hospital never sprawls into logorrhea–Adrian holds the plot reins tightly at all times, sparingly measuring details which accrue neatly to an affecting payoff. The middle 200 page section of this book is easily the best thing I’ve read in the past few years. I actually had to stand up to read it–the highest Biblioklept endorsement there is. Yes folks–if you have to stand up to read it, it’s truly excellent stuff.
You can read the entirety of Chris Adrian’s short story “A Better Angel” here.
8 thoughts on “The Children’s Hospital — Chris Adrian”
Easily one of the best things I’ve ever read, period. When I finished the book, I felt as though maybe that was it – maybe I’d never read another book again (did other books even exist any more?). It made me want to write and it made me want to lie down in the road and die for the futility of even thinking I might do so. Ah, the former won out by a hair.
Anyway, if you haven’t yet read Gob’s Grief, it’s also pretty amazing.
ah…suicidal gestures…surely the sign of a good read.
yeah, i will definitely be reading Gob’s Grief as soon as I get a hold of a copy (and recover from The Children’s Hospital).
[…] If you’re ordering all this stuff online, you might as well pre-order the paperback printing of Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital. I read it and loved it, despite the fact that my edition was hardback (I find hardback books, particularly those of epic length, awfully difficult to read). You can read all about my love for The Children’s Hospital here. […]
[…] to give the award to a book published last year, Chris Adrian’s astounding and astonishing The Children’s Hospital, a book so good that I actually had to stand up to read it at […]
[…] a marvelous aplomb rare in debut novels, a promise he lives up to in his fantastic follow-up The Children’s Hospital (Pickie Beecher shows up again in that novel, and its main protagonist, Jemma Claflin, is a […]
[…] who’ve read Adrian’s novels The Children’s Hospital and Gob’s Grief will find that the stories in A Better Angel work to flesh out a distinctly […]
[…] favorite used bookstore, intrigued first by the (now retro-)futurist font, then the name, echoing Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, another book about a hospital-as-ark. If the black-and-white collage cover art didn’t seal […]
[…] I’ve yet to read—I’m a huge fan of Chris Adrian’s other books, especially The Children’s Hospital (although I’ve reviewed his other books here too, for those inclined to hit the archives), […]