Friday, December 18, 2015

The Children Act

The Children Act by Ian McEwan is about a family court judge. Fiona listens to cases dealing with child custody, safety, and assorted other family issues.  We are introduced to several of her cases but one in particular is central to the novel.  A seventeen year old boy needs a blood transfusion to stay alive.  His parents are born again Jehovah's Witnesses and believe that transfusions are not permissible in the eyes of God.  The boy has been reared in the church and is also adamant about adhering to the word of God even though, without a transfusion, he knows he will die.  Since the boy is months short of 18, he cannot make the decision himself.  The hospital is arguing that there is a procedure that will save the boy--the transfusion. The church and parents are adamantly against it. Fiona will make this life or death decision.

Fiona is experiencing a disorienting event at home. Her husband for many years has announced that he would like to have an affair and, essentially, would like her permission.  Fiona is stunned. Jack asserts his love for Fiona but says he needs to be intimate in a way they have not been. Fiona thinks the affair may be a fait accompli, but Jack will not confirm that.  Fiona does not support his wish, so he packs a suitcase and leaves their home.

Bruised, of course, Fiona staggers to work and decides to change the locks on the doors.  She calls a locksmith and then immerses herself in the various cases including the one with Adam Henry, the 17 year old boy with leukemia.

If you want to read this book, stop after this paragraph.  It is a short book and, while a bit disjointed, i will attribute that assessment to my being not in the best place while reading it.  I am glad I read it, as it is as sweet and soft as young Adam Henry the 17 year old Jehovah's Witness.  And, ultimately, it is about our foundational need for love.

Fiona decides she must meet with Adam in the hospital before she renders her decision.  The boy is smart, funny, creative but certain that the word of God compels him to reject the transfusion. She reminds him that she has the power to allow the hospital to administer the transfusion. He says he knows that and says that if she does so, it would make her an "interfering busybody." He then reads some poetry he has written and plays the violin for her.

Fiona leaves and decides to find for the hospital. The boy receives the transfusion.

Meanwhile, one day shortly after he left, Fiona finds Jack at the door to their home sitting on top of his suitcase. She lets him in, but he is relegated to a spare bedroom.

The book evolves from there and what transpires is meaningful and substantive.  It comes down to this. We need love. We seek love. It is our foundation. And whatever we do, whatever decisions we make, should be made with that awareness.

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