This book review originally appeared in Lunchbox Diaries on August 20, 2016.
Chris Adrian, author of The Children’s Hospital, is as unique as the novel he has written. Not only does Adrian write books, he also works full-time as a pediatrician, and if that isn’t enough he is currently attending divinity school. Despite attending school for theology, Adrian is rather ambiguous when it comes to his personal beliefs. He is also gay, and finds that this has never been an issue for his classmates at divinity school – a refreshing change for sure!
These themes of religion and homosexuality are all at play in Adrian’s novel. The first part of the novel is excellent, opening as a hospital is preserved afloat atop seven miles of water, after the entire Earth is flooded. Nothing survives except for those who were inside the hospital when the flood began.
This life-altering event sheds light on the struggles of both patients and workers within the hospital. The main protagonist, a medical student named Jemma, often experiences feelings of incompetence both before and after the flood. She is often yelled at for making mistakes or for being unable to remember important medical information. And she is not the only character in the novel that faces struggles. All of her fellow co-workers have their own problems. Much like Jemma, Dr. Chandra is bullied for his incompetence. In a comparison to the author, Dr. Chandra is also gay.
In addition, Jemma is also haunted by death. Her beloved brother committed suicide and is now an angel figure in the novel. Both of her parents are dead, her father of lung cancer, and her mother in a house fire. Lastly, her lover dies in a car crash. It is no wonder that Jemma experiences so many feelings of incompetence, when it seems the odds are always against her and those she loves.
Then strange and frightening powers are gifted to Jemma, and this, in turn, changes the destiny of the hospital and those inside it. Jemma is gifted the power of healing, and goes on a tour-de-force healing spree, healing all those who are sick through her mysterious powers. It is after this second miraculous event that Adrian’s book starts to lose steam. It becomes bogged down in too much symbolic weight with angels and miracle children. As everyone begins to sicken, the tension dies off between characters, and the last part of the book falls short of what Adrian was hoping to achieve.
Despite its short-comings, The Children’s Hosptial is an interesting fabulist read that confronts the moral choices a person must make in a new world.
This review was written by team member Lindsey Bartlett. You can read more of Lindsey’s reviews and other book related content on her blog. Find links to her blog and other team member information here.