The Children's Hospital
By Chris Adrian. McSweeney's, $24.
Thu Oct 5 2006
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
The Children’s Hospital, by pediatrician cum divinity student Chris Adrian, is an extremely ambitious novel that fuses together medical drama, fantastical plotlines and teleological grandiosity. The story is anchored to medical intern Jemma Claflin, a woman whose life is beset by a series of tragedies. When her brother commits suicide, his death triggers a God-sent apocalyptic flood that leaves the divinely protected and miraculously buoyant titular hospital as the last bastion of humanity left on the planet. As time goes on, the passengers on this modern Ark forge new relationships in a communal desire to understand their vengeful and inscrutable deity.
Roughly halfway through the book, the predominantly clinical plot is dislodged in favor of beatific wonder. Jemma acquires the power to heal the sick with Christlike powers. Pickie Beecher, a sick child with an ancient soul, is another character who benefits from Adrian’s magical touch. Although he’s six years old, he soberly claims to be 131 and drinks blood for sustenance. The depictions of the medical staff are sometimes less successful; they seem like negative archetypes that Adrian lifted from his med-school days.
In a broader sense, this humanistic novel is a heartfelt portrayal of indefatigable spirit in the face of utter helplessness and ruin. As you read, you can almost feel yourself drifting along, staring out of a window at the endless expanse of placid seascape, unable to shake the ominous feeling that something terrible is in store for the survivors. Despite being burdened by occasional prolixity, Adrian proves to be a suitable successor to the mythological wherewithal of Rushdie or C.S. Lewis, and the book is a solid testament to his array of talents. — Drew Toal