Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

by Lorrie Moore

Paperback, 2004




Vintage (2004), Edition: Reprint, 147 pages


"Touches and dazzles and entertains. An enchanting novel." --The New York Times In this moving, poignant novel by the bestselling author of Birds of America we share a grown woman's bittersweet nostalgia for the wildness of her youth.   The summer Berie was fifteen, she and her best friend Sils had jobs at Storyland in upstate New York where Berie sold tickets to see the beautiful Sils portray Cinderella in a strapless evening gown. They spent their breaks smoking, joking, and gossiping. After work they followed their own reckless rules, teasing the fun out of small town life, sleeping in the family station wagon, and drinking borrowed liquor from old mayonnaise jars. But no matter how wild, they always managed to escape any real danger--until the adoring Berie sees that Sils really does need her help--and then everything changes.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
On a trip to Paris years later with her husband, Daniel, Berie reminisces about her adolescent years in Horsehearts, a town in upstate New York, and especially about her relationship with Sils, her best friend in those years. In Paris, Berie’s acerbic wit is at times withering, at times
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desperate. But back in Horsehearts, when she was an underdeveloped teen, she was wide-eyed and naïve, though perhaps already inured to life’s irony given the summer jobs that she and Sils have working at a down market fairy-tale theme park. Sils is fifteen but looks twenty. So perhaps naturally it is Sils who takes the lead - with boys and booze and bongs, only the latter two of which Berie is able to indulge. Through sexual misadventure, larceny, and the indifference of parents, Berie and Sils test the boundaries set by Horsehearts and their own hearts.

This is a wonderfully written (almost) coming-of-age novel. Moore can do more in a few sentences than many writers can muster in whole novels. Indeed the observations, even the emotions, are often so compressed, so pared down, that it sometimes feels as though this novel could expand exponentially with the merest addition of a bit of water or air or something. Or maybe that was just me wishing that it was considerably longer than it is.

In the end, there is no clear connection between the Berie we see in Paris with Daniel and the Berie we see in Horsehearts with Sils. Even a trip back to the town for a high-school reunion fails to draw the connection. In their different ways both girls have moved on. And that, ultimately, is what is saddest in this tale. For no relationship they are ever likely to have in the years ahead will measure up to the intensity of the bond they formed in youth and cannot reforge as adults. Definitely a novel that needs rereading after you read the rest of Moore’s oeuvre. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member dtn620
"It was hard to think if all the ways you'd never come through for people, closed them out, never loved them, and still order lunch."
LibraryThing member crimson-tide
A beautifully written story of "the soul saving friendship of two adolescent girls poised to become women" in a small town in upstate New York in the sixties and early seventies. It's a tale of friendship, loyalty, change, and love.

Told as remembered from middle age by Berie, now in a loveless and
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unrewarding marriage and visiting Paris with her husband, Daniel, it is heart achingly sad in places, but also sprinkled with wit and understated humour. The sections about Berie and Sils are far superior to the short ones concerning Berie and Daniel, and it doesn't quite all hang together, but the stunning prose, astute observations and raw honesty more than make up for that.

My first exposure to Lorrie Moore, and I'm impressed.
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LibraryThing member bibliobibuli
Beautifully written, intelligent, and often very moving novella of a teen friendship. In the outer frame of the story Benoit-Marie (Berie) is in Paris with her husband, Daniel, a medical researcher, and their marriage is on the rocks. She remembers the intense relationship she had with Sils, both
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of them 15 and working a summer job at an amusement park in a small American town just over the border from Canada.

The unspoken question for me: what if the most important and intense relationship of your life is the one you leave behind when adolescence ends: how do you live the rest of your life?
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LibraryThing member sarah-e
To read some books, or maybe some authors, is like reading myself. I was never as fast as Sils and Berie as a teenager, I didn't smoke or go dancing or talk to boys I didn't know. But something about the alienation from childhood, the warped perception of goodness and innocence, regrets over not
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treating some people as well as I should - that's me. The story is deceptively simple - it reads you.
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LibraryThing member Laura400
So brief, so carefully done, so much rue.
LibraryThing member lcrouch
A book about the coming of age of two young girls, one pretty and developed, the other (the narrater) not as remembered from the perspective of middle age during a dinner in Paris. A vapid, poorly written book.
LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
"There is no connection, no feeling other than emptiness or alienation, maybe," (in a review by verenka on librarything.com) in reference to the story set in the present time of this book, between Berie and her husband, sums it up perfectly.... and that is not a negative review from this reader.
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Moore is able to compare and contrast her adolescent friendship with Sils with her relationship with her husband, with great effect, by the complete lack of connection in the current story.

_Who Will Run the Frog Hospital_ is a sensitive and encompassing story of friendship and how that loss can be felt for years. I was personally drawn to it, as I had my own version of Sils in high school, a girl I adored for her personal strength and love of life. We, too, grew apart. I, too, still feel her loss. (I am luckier than Berie in that I at least have facebook to keep tabs on the girl I wish I could have been, and would have done anything to help.)

Moore is one of those writers whom I have always thought I *should* want to read. _Who Will Run the Frog Hospital_ is the first I actually have. "And thus began my deep and abiding love for Ms. Moore," (Comment by alissamarie on librarything.com) sums up my feeling about this first experience with this writer perfectly, too.
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LibraryThing member abirdman
Charming, troubling, and satisfying novel by a writer who is full of grace and precocious wisdom. Lorrie Moore can cast a girls coming of age novel into a universal struggle. This book is nothing except excellent.
LibraryThing member mazeway
Classic Moore--clever dialogue, wry observations, human misery.
LibraryThing member theageofsilt
The poetic language in this novel, for me, actually obstructed the emotional power of the story. From the beginning, the novel is full of odd observations that make no sense to me. The narrator begins with a hope that eating brains in Paris will lead to a Proustian epiphany about her childhood. Why
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while eating brains, particularly? Her husband comments, "Remember the beast you eat...and it will remember you." This makes no sense to me. There are many wise insights about life. The narrator realizes that the intensity of her friendship at fifteen with Sils will never be matched, even in her marriage. Also, that her relationship shut her off from everyone else - her mother, foster sister and brother who become little more than stick figures in her memories. I enjoyed the descriptions of their summer jobs in Storyland, which is clearly modelled on the real one in Conway, New Hampshire. It is a delightful place for the very young! This might have been a suitable novel to recommend to a teenage girl, but the story is rooted so firmly in the late 1960's that anyone under forty would have difficulty understanding the details. Joni Mitchell, who?
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LibraryThing member miriamparker
A narrator that is believable and yet you never quite know what she is going to say or do. I liked that. And the character of the friend (forgot her name as I am reviewing this long after I read it) was great. The image of working at an amusement park and stealing from it is great.
LibraryThing member verenka
This book starts with a brilliant sentence:
"In Paris we eat brains every night. My husband likes the vaporous, fishy mousse of them."
I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I liked the childhood story, Sils' and Berie's friendship, growing up in horsehearts etc. The story set in the
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present, however, doesn't do it for me (apart from that first sentence). There is no connection, no feeling other than emptiness or alienation, maybe.
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LibraryThing member oldblack
Great book, especially for readers who grew up in the 1960s,despite the clever word-play which at times threatens to be an irrelevant but amusing distraction..
LibraryThing member Pennydart
“Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” is an achingly sad novel that combines a coming-of-age tale with one of middle-aged emptiness. Berie, a photography curator at her local historical society, is visiting Paris with her medical-researcher husband. Though they go through the daily routines of a
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husband and wife, their marriage is emotionally empty: as Berie notes, on the second page of the book “The affectionate farce I make of him ignores the ways I feel his lack of love for me.” Her adult weariness leads her to reminisce about the exceptionally close friendship she had a teenager with Sils, the local beauty in the small town on the Canadian border where they live. Much of the book tells the story of one summer when Sils and Berie worked at a local amusement park together, Sils entertaining park guests as Cinderella and Berie selling tickets, and of the results of Berie’s stealing money to help Sils when she become pregnant.

Lonnie Moore is a wonderful writer, whose careful use of detail can powerfully evoke a time period: I’d forgotten all about Yardley lip gloss and how essential it was for teenage girls in the early 70s. Moore is also an enigmatic writer, and her prose needs to be read slowly, but rewards careful reading with true poignancy.
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LibraryThing member ChelleBearss
A beautiful short novel about a woman reminiscing of her teenage years with her best friend. I enjoyed the flashbacks of her childhood more than the present day.
LibraryThing member TheBookJunky
A slim novel but one of the best. The slender ones usually are. Or at least more likely to be than the fat ones.A disillusioned woman, sort of stumbling through but forward in life, looks back on her coming of age and her relationship with her best friend. Captures the persona of a young teenager
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—funny, wisecracking at times, yet often tender and childlike, longing for simultaneous innocent childhood and adventurous adulthood. “…my grandmother, who, when I visited, stared at me with the staggering, arrogant stare of the dying, the wise vapidity of the already gone; she refused to occupy the features of her face.”
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LibraryThing member elleceetee
Who Will Run The Frog Hospital both a coming of age story about a girl living in a small town in the 1970s and a portrait of the woman she became as an adult. Berie and Sils are inseparable as children and most of the book is a meditation on their friendship. It is this part of the book that works
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the best - I was invested in seeing the outcome of their personal travails. The writing is quite beautiful and humorous at times; both Berie and Sils work at Storyland, a storybook themed amusement park, but snitch cigarettes together at break time in costumes.

What didn't work was pretty much everything else in the novel. The parts in the present time detail Berie's trip to Paris with her husband and their lackluster marriage. These parts were short and poorly developed and I found myself reading impatiently through them to get to the childhood sections.

But, as one other reviewer said, at least the book was mercifully short
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LibraryThing member cecily2
Depressing but funny - and the writing's super fantastic. I wish Lorrie Moore would write more novels.
LibraryThing member CarrieWuj
Slightly off-kilter tale that alternates between present day in France sight-seeing and memories of adolescence in small town Horsehearts on the American side of the Canadian border in the late 60s-early 70s. The narrator, Benoite-Marie is an intelligent, but unsettled woman with laser wit and
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thoughtful reflection. Most of that is turned toward her best friend from her teen years, Silsby Chausee. They were unequally matched then -- Sils was beautiful, developed, comfortable in her growing body and Berie was the lanky flat-chested sidekick, the consolation date. Still the two had a bond of like-mindedness and daring, sneaking out, going to bars with fake ids, smoking & drinking, looking for adventure and a way out of their small town and small lives, but also just seeking normalcy. They both worked at StoryLand, a local amusement park -- Sils was Cinderella, while Berie was simply a cashier -- indicative of their status. When Sils gets an older boyfriend, dynamics change, though Berie remains devoted and risks a lot to remain friends. All this is remembered wistfully from middle-age in a challenged, childless marriage. The writing is beautiful, if the plot is a little bizarre -- there seems like a lot to be mined with discussion including family dynamics, family of origin, and womanhood.
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LibraryThing member bness2
Well written, just not quite my style.
LibraryThing member stravinsky
If it isn't already, this should be required high-school reading (second semester freshmen year).
LibraryThing member paroof
I love finding authors like this. The ones who make me feel devoted, like I would read anything they wrote. And it's funny, I've been looking at this book for years, thinking I should read it. I don't know why it took me so long to actually get around to it.

Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
A beautiful short novel about a young woman's coming of age. It's bitingly funny in some places, but overall it's a melancholy sort of novel.
LibraryThing member steve02476
I love Lorrie Moore and this novel was just perfect. The writing was lovely, the characters were well drawn, and it was a great story. But mostly I just loved the exquisite writing.


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