cover image The President and the Frog

The President and the Frog

Carolina De Robertis. Knopf, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-31841-6

De Robertis (Cantoras) meditates on the fight for democracy in her pleasing latest. An unnamed 82-year-old former president of a “near-forgotten” Latin American country “at the bottom of the world” answers a journalist’s probing questions: How did the former guerrilla fighter rise from obscurity and imprisonment to become “The Poorest President in the World,” and how can his country serve as an international symbol of hope? As he considers his replies, he recalls lessons from his darkest hours: 40 years before, he was captured after a failed revolution and condemned to isolation in a dirty pit, where his only companion was a talking frog. To satisfy the creature’s demand for “true stories,” the narrator recalls memories that inspired his love of his country and his care for its people, such as strangers coming together during the initial military crackdowns to dig underground tunnels and free prisoners. Though he understands the frog is a manifestation of madness, the president ruminates on the sacrifices of the poor and abuses of the powerful as the narrative strands of past and present become one. While the allegorical aspects can feel a bit pat, the tale’s simplicity belies considerable depth and resonance: “Even horror is an opening, every moment a new beginning, until we reach the end.” In such a charged political moment, this lands as both a balm and a paean to national pride and unity. (Aug.)