'Children's Hospital' from the McSweeney's Stable

The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian, is a preposterous story about a floating hospital where hundreds of children, medical staff, and family members are trapped. It is printed by the McSweeney's publishing house.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Chris Adrian is a medical student turned novelist, turned divinity student. His new novel is called, “The Children's Hospital.”

Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE: An apocalyptic rainstorm and flood trap over 1,000 people in a hospital. Its wards are filled with hundreds of very sick children. There's the medical staff, kitchen staff and some visiting family members. And on top of this, the hospital floats atop the waters that cover the surface of the earth.

This is about as preposterous a situation as you'll find in recent American fiction. A quartet of angels appear to be presiding over the story. One of them seems to be the late brother of a young medical student named Gemma(ph).

This dutiful healer makes her rounds and attends to the sickest of the children, even as she discovers that her affair with a young colleague has left her carrying a child of her own. Gemma's realistic pregnancy stands in counterpoint to the allegorical world in which the hospital floats, and the fiery healing powers Gemma discovers within herself sometimes rock the hospital to its core.

The story itself bobs up and down, from realism to the fantastic and back again. And I have to warn you, it's enormously long. There is an end to it, though I shouldn't say what that end might be. And the sailing hospital sometimes seems like a “Ship of Fools,” or a bloated episode of “Lost,” so “The Children's Hospital” isn't a novel for the unadventurous. But if you go into it, knowing you're going to encounter inventions by one of the most deliriously imaginative young writers in America, perhaps that will help you keep afloat.

NORRIS: The book is “The Children's Hospital” by Chris Adrian. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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