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“The Children Act” by Ian McEwan is a novel with a thought-provoking plot. Fiona Maye, 59, is a well-respected London High Court judge in the Family Court Division. The author presents the delicate and ethical/moral conflicts that she deals with on a regular basis.

Fiona works hard and explores every avenue to determine the best path for a child. Parents, grandparents and divorce attorneys may think they know best. But it is Fiona who makes the judgment.

But Fiona’s professional successes are in contrast to her private sorrow and domestic challenges. From the outside, it looks as though her life is completely in order.

She and her husband of thirty-five years have never had children of their own. But they have been happy. Then one day her husband tells her that even though he still loves her, he wants one last chance at a passionate relationship and asks her permission for an open marriage. Fiona is stunned. True, their sexual relationship
has not been what it used to be. Has she been too preoccupied with some of her cases, she wonders. Whatever the cause, she tells him it is over between them if he takes up with that woman. “She already knew the name of the woman. Melanie. Not so remote from the name of a fatal form of skin cancer.”

Her husband moves out and Fiona throws herself into her work. Her newest case is Adam, an intelligent, loving 17-year-old who writes poetry and is learning the violin. He has leukemia and needs a transfusion, which the family refuses for religious reasons – they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Adam is just three months shy of his 18th birthday when he would have been able to make that decision for himself, and he clearly wants no foreign blood transfused into his body.

Fiona makes the decision. Is her responsibility for the situation over? This novel deftly explores human motivations for making decisions and the consequences of those decisions.