Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?* No seriously. Who the hell is going to run the frog hospital if all the nurses keep kissing the frogs, resulting in warts rather than princes? Should we move to a single-payer lily pad system? None of this is pertinent to the novel but I think these are important questions to ask.
Lorrie Moore’s second novel—Who Will Run the Frog Hospital—proves that she is a word sorceress. About six months ago, I reviewed her first novel, Anagrams. I noted that she consistently juggles wordplay and storyplay. For example, she plays with words to interject humor and convey some deeper truth. Additionally, she plays with stories, layering plots on top of each other and often showing readers a certain character in various forms. In Frog Hospital, we meet Berie Carr and follow two interwoven tracks: her childhood with her inseparable best girl friend and her adulthood with her strained marriage.
My complaints and praises of her first novel similarly apply to her second. Sometimes her puns feel a touch contrived. Sometimes the integration of both eras is not as seamless as I’d prefer. Sometimes the main character slips through my fingers because she’s described more in relation to others than in her own right.
On the other hand, her second novel evinces her growth as a storyteller. Frog Hospital is relatively short (150 pages) and Moore is more deliberate about what she includes. Like Benna in Anagrams, Berie is a tortured soul and we desperately want to know more about her life. Even though I enjoyed reading about Benna, there’s something about seeing Berie’s childhood so vividly that helps me understand why she is the way she is in her adult life. She felt repressed by the idea of “innocence” as a child, so she revolted. As a woman, she mourns her loss of innocence and reflects on how her loud, youthful choices led to her current troubled relationship.
Moore is incredibly lyrical in her writing—it’s as if she’s writing a poem that actually makes sense. Unlike Murakami, her metaphors serve to clarify and help us make sense of the world in a more profound way. I presume that even the title is a metaphor: a query for how she can salvage the wreckage of her life.
As aforementioned, I love her voice as a novelist, but I recognize areas of improvement. I will absolutely continue reading her, and I recommend her work on a rainy day. Overall, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? receives 4 out of 5 camel humps.
*Moore, Lorrie. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? New York: Warner Books, 1994. Print.