The Children’s Hospital

ISBN: 1932416609
ISBN 13: 9781932416602
By: Chris Adrian

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About this book

A hospital is preserved, afloat, after the Earth is flooded beneath seven miles of water. Inside, assailed by mysterious forces, doctors and patients are left to remember the world they've lost and to imagine one to come. At the center, Jemma Claflin, a medical student, finds herself gifted with strange powers and a frightening destiny. Simultaneously epic and intimate, wildly imaginative and unexpectedly relevant, The Children's Hospital is a work of stunning scope, mesmerizing detail, and wrenching emotion.

Reader's Thoughts

Daniel Roy

What a chore this book turned out to be. It started strong enough that I stuck with the first few hundred pages despite the lack of significant plot development, hoping something in the overall novel would redeem the whole. But by the time I got to page 400 or so, I realized I had been duped.The premise of The Children's Hospital is pretty cool: it's a modern-day Noah's Ark story, but with a floating hospital, and rare diseases instead of animals. But unfortunately, and perhaps deliberately, Adrian chose not to live up to this idea in any significant way. You'd think it would be impossible to turn such an idea into a total bore, but that would be underestimating Adrian's talent for tedium.Not that there are not some qualities to this book. For starters, the prose is good. There were moments when I enjoyed just reading the daily lives of the doctors as they focused on the hospital life despite the death of civilization outside the hospital walls. But page after page, my frustrations grew stronger and stronger.For starters, there are simply no likable characters in the book. Jemma, the protagonist, turns out to be boring, self-centered and totally lacking in imagination, despite having lived a unique childhood, and having extraordinary powers and events thrust upon her as an adult. None of this cracks Jemma's shell of self-defeating doubt.The same holds true of the rest of the cast. At times, the only notion that kept me sane was to repeat to myself that these characters were intended as satire. They certainly had no depth, and they make their way through the lack of plot with the resourcefulness of imbeciles.The overall effect is of a literary novel that tries very hard to be self-important and clever, but just exhausts you with each page. If this novel had been trimmed down to a slim 150 pages, it might have made for a quirky, cryptic read; but as it stands, it's just a bloated, preachy, self-deluded mess.


Even though I have slightly less than zero recreational reading time these days, I borrowed this fat hardcover book from the library last week. I'm about 20 pages into it, and loving both the premise and the style. It'll probably take me months to get through it.Hmm, I just read all the other reviews on this site, and wonder if I should have chosen such a deep and dense book to read in my snatched ten minutes here and there ... we'll see how it goes.11-19: Well, it took me six weeks, but I finally finished this tome last night. I have to say I was disappointed with the ending. My main thought was ... "What was the point?" I'm sure the story is an allegory for something deep and meaningful but I frankly didn't get it. I kept reading, braving my annoyance and confusion with the many interludes by too many angels, because I wanted to find out how it would end, but I really didn't feel satisfied when I closed the book. Perhaps it was because I never read for more than fifteen minutes at a time ... maybe this just isn't a book for bedtime reading. Dunno ... but I can't say it was worth the effort.

Lizzie Maguire

I have never been very good at describing books to people.Mostly, I think, because the story has already been told in a way uniquely perfect to itself.And how could I try to improve upon that?So I will not describe this book to you, at least not in detail.It is 615 pages long, so even the description would be rather lengthy.But I will tell you to read it.Because you should.I don't even know if you will like it.I have read some reviews of it that weren't too enthusiastic.But I have also read some that were.I am no good at critiquing what I read.I read a book and fall into the story and when that happens I love it no matter what, so my opinions are useless.So maybe you will hate it.Maybe you won't even finish it.But you should try it nonetheless.It is the story of a modern-day Great Flood. Instead of an ark, there is a children's hospital that floats atop seven miles of water, God's wrath laid out in H2O.Instead of a Noah, there is a Jemma, a medical student in her third year of residency at this children's hospital, who happens to be fucking her boyfriend in a linen closet when the flood strikes.Instead of Noah's family, there are doctors and nurses and volunteers and aides and parents, all playing their own roles in the workings of the children's hospital.Instead of animals, there are children, hundreds and hundreds of desperately ill children, all of them relying on the children's hospital to make them well again.It is a wonderful story, well worth the patience it takes to read 615 pages. It is terrifying and wonderful, heart-warming and soul-crushing, impressive and amazing.It is terribly beautiful and beautifully terrible.It is awful, not in the bad way, but literally. It fills you with awe that such an ambitious story could be carried out so well.It leaves you empty, and full, and completely unexplainable.I am a nerd.I don't know why I like it so much.But I do.


Okay. So I brought this on a trip with me--lugged the damn thing across the country--only to barely open it. I admire Adrian's prose, and his ambition, and I like the marrying of the hyper-realist and the surreal in this novel, but it moved so slowly, and tediously, and I never wanted to read it. Finally, finally, after 276 pages, I gave up. I rarely do this, but I wanted so badly to read on my vacation. I wanted a good, juicy, smart, beautiful read. A good read! Anything to get some pages turned. I even went to Barnes & Ignoble, the only bookstore in the area, to buy a new book. I never go to chain bookstores, if I can help it. Bless Chris Adrian. I think other people will have more patience for this one than I did.


this book, to me, feels like playing pretend on a huge wonderful scale. it exists in the most real way in the world of imagination. and it is so blissfully long! i don't really want to finish.update:okay but now i did finish, and i was not disappointed. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Harry Potter in the scope and magnitude and level of imagination and complete definition of an unfamiliar world, except The Children's Hospital soared over all of Harry Potter's weaknesses, and doesn't give you a slightly dirty feeling that you're enjoying it a bit too much.What I found most compelling about the book was the power and beauty of the smallest moments. Things that I had never even articulated feeling are described in such a way that I was sure that the human experience and my own childhood experience is in so many ways universal. These moments were beautiful and tragic and wonderful, making the characters so intimate and real.My only complaint is that the ending was awfully clean and turned the whole journey of the book into something extremely logical and linear. It fit, it definitely fit, but it was almost too tidy.When I finished this book, I opened back up to the first page and started right over again. It was that good.

Kristen Boers

One my my biggest gripes with modern fiction is that there are so few epic tales told in interesting ways. Say what you want about Stephen King, but I have never put down one of his books feeling bored or, worse, uninterested. One of the reasons I love the Harry Potter books is it's grand scope of story. The books I've been most attracted to recently are the ones that manage to tell a story in an interesting way. That's all. Not so hard, right? I read this book, The Children's Hospital, about four months ago. I liked it. After finishing "HP and the Deathly Hallows" I needed something else, something big, something that I wouldn't be able to just breeze though, something that was cheap (ie, I already owned it.) So, I picked up this 8 hundred something page book. Again.And I am so glad I did. I cannot name a heroine in modern literature, in any literature, for that matter, as perfectly flawed as Jemma Claflin. As one of the last 1000 some old people on earth, and the unexpected savior of the all the sick children in the hospital of the title, Jemma succeeds as a person in spite of her flaws, but she is wonderful as a character because of them. She is seemingly distant, but cares about the strangest child in the joint, Pickie Beecher, who sips fresh blood from packets and speaks with a wisdom far beyond hhis years. Jemma is hesitant to take on a leadership role, but is sincerely compelled to do the right thing, from seeking out the stowaway Jarvis on her oft time, to acting against the makeshift government's orders in time of crisis. She misses her dead brother Calvin, worries for her boyfriend Rob, and in her spare time, remembers that she is, in fact, one of the last people on earth.The book gets a little long, and in particular the flashback to Jemma and Calvin's Christmas experience with their self absorbed, but mostly well meaning parents is hard to get through the first couple of times, but is worth it for the joke about the Unity of Pony. But all flaw are so easily forgiven, due to the limitless ambition of story and character. Well done, Chris Adrian.


Loved the beginning, was so tired of it by the end that I read the last page and threw it down. It exhausted me. However, several days later it had worked its way back into my head, and I can't stop thinking about it. In the chaotic, hedonistic, immediate gratification oriented world we live in today, it's not hard to imagine that we could be on a path of self-destruction (whether through global warming, international warfare, diminishing resources, overpopulation, super-viruses, natural disasters, there are so many possibilities!) that may be too late to reverse. The way in which author Chris Adrian chooses to bring about his end-of-world scenario is far-fetched (he almost lost be when characters starting shooting green fire from their bodies), but the implications of our actions for the future of life on the planet are well-illustrated. It made me feel terrified and guilty and saddened and hopeless. Adrian is a beautiful writer, and he weaves a dark humor through it all. I didn't find myself caring especially for any character in particular, just for (wo)mankind in general. The biggest drawback of this edition (Grove McSweeney's) was all the typos, especially in the second half of the book. It seemed like the proofreaders just stopped reading it halfway through (maybe when the green fire started shooting from people's bodies). I'm not sure I can recommend this one, or that I'll ever have the strength to read it again. It's long and drags in parts and stretches your willingness to suspend disbelief, but it's also a searing indictment of humanity and the way we live today.


This is one of the latest offerings from McSweeney's Rectangulars. It's gotten a lot of press from unexpected corners, even including Oprah's magazine. And it is all deserved--this book is sensational. The plot is dazzlingly original, the characters are compelling, and the voice is just fantastic. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.*****************************************************************(update:) I've just finished reading and crying both. What a stunning book. It is devastating without being angsty, lofty and epic-ish without being overblown... High, high art, and serious beauty. When was the last time I cried while reading? I really can't remember. Please read this book. It's almost unbearably great.


Holy mother, what a slog this book was. Where to begin with my frustrations with this read. Okay, first of all, let me just get this off my chest: the novel is absolutely riddled with typos–not exclusively a reflection of Mr Adrian's work, but between the author and the publisher, the sloppiness is inexcusable and distracts enormously from the story that, as a reader, you simply want to lose yourself in.And about that story: the one element of this book that strikes me most positively is the imaginative premise: Noah's flood has essentially happened again, and the sole survivors are the inhabitants of this children's hospital—patients, doctors, families, et al.—which is now made to float above the surface of the earth. Chris Adrian is classified as a magical realist, and the genre inherently requires suspension of disbelief; as far as the premise of the story goes, I'm good. But the plot devices that the author fashions in order to drive the story forward are lazily wrought, contrived, and too often simply absurd. Before the flood, an engineer was forewarned and turned the building into a boat; this new reality is governed by an angel, who, despite her divine substance, has no better way to communicate with the flood's survivors than over the hospital PA system; apart from the trauma of the world ending, life as the hospital's inhabitants know it isn't all that different than before–no deprivation of creature comforts–thanks to a "replicator," which makes to order basically anything that anybody wants at any time. How convenient.And the major plot turn centered on Jemma, the novel's heroine–I won't spoil it here, in case you decide to read the novel yourself, but: 1) I don't recommend you do; 2) COME ON. I would so much rather that the time spent on weird cartoonish scenes and green fire and everything else were spent on character development, so that I would give a damn about any of these unfortunate people. On the contrary, I couldn't care the slightest bit what happened to any of them. I kind of hoped they would all just die already so that I could go on to another read.Oh yeah, and about that angel–or rather, angelS, plural–they take turns narrating chapters, which is only very obscurely indicated by an innocuous symbol that heads each chapter, which, if you figure out early enough, congratulations, but otherwise is simply a source for greater confusion. Not that it much matters, since the novel is essentially narrated in third-person omniscient voice, until the author seemingly remembers that the multiple angel narration was supposed to be one of the book's central conceits, and he changes tone for a couple of pages at the end of any given chapter.One last gripe: Mr Adrian's training is in medicine, and don't you know it just about every other page. The guy gratuitously drops a shit ton of medical jargon–diseases, diagnoses, treatments– like it was common parlance–which, incidentally, we have a cousin who does the same, and it annoys the hell out of me.What a relief to finally be through with this book.


Finally finished this epic on Sunday night. The sheer size of the book itself -- and the fact that it's a beautiful product and I didn't want to mess it up -- made it a bit difficult to lug around for subway reading. Anyway -- this story is phenomenal. I've never read a book like it, and I always appreciate originality, and not only is it original but it's beautifully written, the characters -- unlike this run-on sentence -- are extraordinarily well constructed (Pickie Beecher should go down as a new literary something-or-another, certainly never been anyone like him before that I've encountered), and even though the scope of the plot couldn't be much more sweeping (the end of this world and the start of the next... although more the limbo before the start of the next... interesting) it's still accessible.Basically, this0 book is worth it. Some people might be put off by some of the angel stuff, but I wouldn't describe the book as overtly religious or evangelical. It's just one element of the story, which in the end makes it a much more hopeful apocalypse than that other (and also amazing) The Road.I want other people to read this. You can borrow mine but like I said, the book itself is gorgeous so pony up and get the hardcover. One of the few times it's worth it. And my job is making books so I'm a good source for that.******************************************I'm reading this -- which is about a hospital afloat on the waters of an apocalyptic flood -- tucked in bed while the Nor'easter pounds Brooklyn through the window over my shoulder... it's the perfect Sunday afternoon, but in a kind of too-perfect-a-bit-freaky way.Anyway, back to it -- only a fraction in but so far completely and absolutely incredible. I took a break to look up the translation of the epigraph (Lettera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria; moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia).


In the eddys between high-voltage plot progression (sex! apocalypse! code blue!) and scintillating character exposition,(creepy little kids with dark minds and incomplete bowels!) I prodded my out-of-literary-practice brain to understand the loftier aims of this novel. The best I could make of it is an allegory about grief; the obsessive, ego-centric and circuitous process of letting go. What other prerequisites for the heroine role has Jemma fulfuilled but a tremendous amount of loss? And not long after the story begins, every other character is in that same boat. Pun intended. From the initial devastating lurch, through episodes of magical belief, to a final slough-ing off of old habis, the grief theme was an intellectualizing life-preserver that kept me afloat in what would have been a flood of tears. Oh, and chuckles. The book was pretty charming, too.


I don't usually give a rating to a did not finish book, but this book was pretty unpleasant to read. It was joyless, and confusing, and it felt like the author was trying to make it meaningful by throwing a bunch of meaningful-sounding things together into the book and assuming that people would read meaning into it. And a lot of people did, judging by the reviews. I did not. There were angels, and an apocalypse, but no idea of a god. There were doctors and a hospital, but no notion of what healing means, or of why people do this hard work, what pleasure or even grim satisfaction they get from it. There was a great flood, but no attempt by the survivors to understand how or what or who. They spend some time on "why," but never get anywhere, and don't appear to dwell on it too hard. There's a lot of ugliness, and even the occasional beauty is ugly.If someone can explain what they liked about this book, I'd be grateful. I really don't understand what there is to like.


Oh Yeah, SPOILERS.A fairly strange book, in the sense that I never knew exactly where it was taking me. Two hundred pages of hospital melodrama with hardcore medschool level diseases and afflictions start this one off, albeit there's quite a bit of "Angels" and whatnot thrown in, plus the world ends. However, this doesn't seem to faze the Hospital peoples, as they basically go on about their daily business of trying to keep the kids alive and whatnot, even though they have a machine that will make ANYTHING THEY WANT (except carbon based life forms). Seriously, if it's one thing I learned from this book, it's that Doctors are all whore faced bitches lacking imagination and are so regimented and tied down to their craft that they ignore the fact that THE WORLD HAS ENDED AND THEY ARE ON A MAGICAL FLOATING HOSPITAL IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ENDLESS OCEAN. Jemma, the main character, doesn't have much of a personality other than being bossed around by everybody around her and dazing off into rather tame daydreams where she eventually, kind of, maybe, sort of, controls reality. Then she discovers she can heal people with green fire, so shit gets real. Everybody's saved, no more sickness, throw the beds out the window! So shit gets sunny for a couple hundred pages, all is good, let's start a government now that we've finally realized we're the last people left alive, and so on. But then a big dude gets pulled out of the drink, he has no memory, Jemma is pregnant (DINGDINGDING as if we haven't been beaten to death with the religious imagery already of Jemma being some Angel/Savior of the world).There's a bunch of subtext shit about Angels and brothers (Pickie, the hilariously out-of-touch-but-nobody-really-recognizes-it vampire boy, "I'm 136 years old,") that don't really tie into anything except that there are four Angels of the apocalypse (a preserver, recorder, etc.) and then when it all happens, everybody dies, land is discovered, the virgin miracle jesus baby is born to Jemma (who dies immediately afterwards), the kids wake up and flood the new world.Not a bad read overrall, just kind of tone deaf. Was it supposed to be nonsensical? No, and it really wasn't, but I just never "got" what was pseudo religious malarky and what was supposed to be taken seriously.Also, they say to write what you know, and the dude that wrote this spent time at Harvard's Divinity School and is a Pediatric Med Student, so well done bro. Seriously though, who was Pickie? Why a vampire? And if he wasn't supposed to be a vampire, then why was he alwasy drinking blood and complaining about "never being full" and so on. It's things like this that just left me confused. There are tons of hints and allusions that just never play out or get spelled out enough to where the reader can be certain that this was the author's intent. Is it supposed to be open ended, leaving us guessing the roles of all these not-quite-fleshed-out characters? I don't think so. I feel like he was trying to set up something grand and in the end, everything just turned into ash and fell apart, which is exactly what happens to all the adults at the end/beginning of the world.Ok, and another thing, what was the deal with the serially sexually molested boy who was found on the abandoned cruise ship? He had every STD known to man, with the exception of "the big one" (I'm assuming AIDS) and was clutching a diary/fuck book that detailed all of his encounters with men and women on the boat in hilarious lack of detail where every sexual act is named after a former president, so it reads like "and then both of them gave me a Reagan and I did a Bush and then a Bush Jr. to them" and so on. But his role is never explicated either. The only connection to anything is that shortly after he arrives everybody starts getting the turning-to-as-sickness they call the Botch. Did he introduce it even though he's in a coma? Who knows. There's no evidence that he did, but no evidence that he didn't.Plus, I had issues with the role of Calvin, Jemma's brother who also is the "recording angel" doomed to follow Jemma throughout her life (so he apparently relives their own childhood together). They have some weird, almost-but-not-quite brother sister love going on, petering on the edge of incest but it never quite gets there. He makes her promise never to marry anybody (with allusions to marrying him instead) and they share a bed and spend all their time together and spend all their time together and she dreams about him, all which could be sort of innocuously sweet but just feels kinda dirty, so was that his intention? Who knows. I guess I'll stop, since this review is already way too long, but I thought I would like this a lot more than I did. It wasn't awful, just unfulfilling at the end. After the first few pages, I thought I was going to like it, but then Jemma became such a wet blanket and there was too much back and forth and no initiative from the survivors and problems with tone that it all fell apart by the end, at least for me.

Gregor Xane

This is a literary novel with science fictional, fantastical, and horrific elements. It’s a novel with overt religious themes that’s filled with black humor, curse words, sexual situations, bleakness, and just a sprinkle of hope. It is dark and funny. The writing is top notch. Some characters are chillingly true-to-life while others are wonderfully over-the-top. The author creates a true microcosm of the world in his children’s hospital afloat on God’s second great flood. He’s smashed a little bit of everything inside and let everything loose to wreak havoc. Is it a bit much? A bit overlong? Perhaps. But the more I think on it, I can’t think of anything that I’d cut. I liked every scene, and especially those featuring Jemma’s big brother, the young psychopath who wants to be undone. This character is so well drawn that his chapters alone are worth the read. Folks seem to be evenly divided on this work. I’m on the side that thinks this is one hell of a literary accomplishment.

Lena Webb

I hit the biggest brick wall ever while reading this novel. What could have been a wonderful piece of modern fiction was instead an overblown, poorly-presented, self-assured, long-winded and ultimately unsatisfying attempt at science fiction. To be fair, parts of this novel were wonderful. These parts were all contained in a young gay cruise ship passenger's diary, where he documents his sexual exploits in code using Presidents' names. But in the end, my housemate and I decided that we hated it as much as your typical Dave Eggers novel/fictional autobiography. She hated it one full star less than I do.

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