Ian McEwan”s newest novel The Children Act is certainly timely and may be a predictor of things to come in American life if we start to allow religion to creep closer to the laws of the land.
The novel revolves around a High Court judge in London named Fiona Maye. Her job is to decide the fates of children by basing it according to the law mixed with her own private judgement of what is best for the child. I wouldn’t call her Judge Judy, but you get the idea. The first problem Fiona faces at the start of the novel is that her marriage may be falling apart. Her husband decides that they’ve been married awhile and he wants to have sex again but since there is never time and they’ve been together forever that he now feels like he may want something more. This sets Fiona on her path of figuring out who she is and what she really stands for.
As this drama is unfolding in her life, case after case of children being mistreated are being brought before her until a very special case that sets the novel’s big question up of, “What would your God do?” Are judges gods or are they just people who use reason and law to decide what is right and wrong? Adam Henry is a seventeen year-old boy with a life threatening disease that requires him to have a blood transfusion. Sounds like an easy case. The problem is his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and won’t let their son have the transfusion because it goes against their beliefs. The parents and Adam know that if he doesn’t get the transfusion that he will die a very painful death. They are all okay with it because God must want it that way.
To some of us this would sound crazy but in today’s world we are starting to see religion based reason telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. This case is brought before Fiona and she must decide if she must take over the welfare of Adam and make the hospital give him the transfusion. When she decides the case all parties act like it was the right decision. This is where the novel takes a turn which this reader did not see coming. Adam wants to thank Fiona but she can not accept what he has to offer which leads to an unexpected drama unfolding.
At the close of the novel we find Fiona looking back on things and her marriage to discover all that Adam has taught her about herself and how her decisions whether legal or personal, can have devastating or triumphant effects on the people who enter her life. The reader after finishing the novel will certainly be forced to look at their own life and wonder what they would do if they were suddenly asked to make a life or death decision about someone else’s life. We do it everyday in our life when choose our paths of what to do. Everything we do affects a child in some way. Let’s hope we are acting towards the best interests of the children of the world every single day.