The former president of an unnamed Latin American country wonders if he should reveal the strange secret of his survival during imprisonment: by discussing revolution, dignity, and love, with a loud-mouth frog.
[De Robertis'] admiration for her protagonist is so absolute that at times she reduces him to a set of irreproachable — and bloodless — ideals ... Still, this is a moving, deeply felt novel, especially in the president’s excruciating (and sometimes humorous) encounters with his strangely healing frog. De Robertis daringly invites us to imagine a man’s Promethean struggle to wrest control of his broken psyche under the most dire circumstances possible.
It is a thoroughly political book—defiantly political, even. Its protagonist is so devoted to improving the collective lot of Uruguay’s citizens that he barely comprehends the idea of a personal life ... In his guerrilla years, the protagonist seems constantly to be convincing himself of his own correctness. This habit can become irritating and repetitive, but it serves a clear purpose: He can sustain his militancy only with ceaseless reminders of how much urgent work there is to be done. In prison, these reminders turn into painful, guilt-laden questions, which de Robertis uses to give the novel its momentum ... The failure to depict...stark conditions slightly undermines de Robertis’s commitment to complexity: Life on the ground, after all, is more complicated than life in revolutionary or reformist rhetoric. Still, The President and the Frog achieves a considerable feat. It turns the tools of literary fiction—free indirect discourse, deep character study, weird conceits like a talking frog—into a call to political, moral, and historical attention ... The President and the Frog asks its readers to think seriously about the weight of taking political action, then suggests that they take it.