Picks and Pans Review: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

updated 11/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Lorrie Moore

Berie Carr is on a trip to Paris with her husband, Daniel, who likes to talk to strangers, substitutes Spanish for French and thinks brains are a kind of seafood. Adrift in the foreign-ness of the city—and the barrenness of her marriage—Berie flashes back to the summer of '72, when she was 15 and her life was "invaded by" her wild, beautiful best girlfriend, Sils. "In this neck of the woods," says Berie of Horsehearts, a small tourist town near the U.S.-Quebec border, "she was the neck of the woods."

The girls have jobs at Storyland, a nursery-rhyme theme park where Berie is a cashier and Sils is Cinderella. They sneak smokes in Memory Lane, climb out their bedroom windows late at night to drink in bars and hitch rides home with strange men. Smart, flatchested Berie, magnificent boy-magnet Sils: Their relationship is innocent, reckless, totally self-absorbed. When Sils gets pregnant, Berie takes charge and makes choices that doom their friendship by summer's end.

In exquisite prose, Lorrie Moore (Self-Help, Anagrams) evokes time, place and a range of emotions. This funny, poignant novel is as delicious as the French pastry Berie devours. Like the exuberance of youth, it ends too soon. (Knopf, $20)

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