I have started this post several times, never adequately expressing my thoughts . It is not that I did not enjoy Ian McEwan’s “The Children Act”. Enjoy it I did, however, I have struggled with how to navigate my feelings over the intriguing plot and characters. This is not a “fun” read, nor a page turning thriller. It is not funny, though I have read a few reviews that imply parts of it are. “The Children Act” is a provocative novella that left me pondering the unexpected consequences of one’s decisions, even the most thoughtful ones. Yes or no? Right or left? The blur between the lines. The unfathomable outcomes.
I finished the audio of “The Children Act” several days ago. It sits in the car, patiently waiting its return to the library, where it needs to go today. There was this underlying feeling that if I held onto it, the words would come to me on what to say.
Some words just seem to take longer to percolate in one’s memory grooves. A walk in the garden, even the mindless task of pulling weeds, always seem to help me harvest my thoughts, so I did just that. I took a walk about the acreage, hovering over this book-loving garden fairy. Lo and behold, the words started to perk into sentences, which I will try to express now.
Judge Fiona Maye is charged with finding a legal judgement regarding whether or not a boy, on the cusp of adulthood, should be allowed to die because of his faith or ordered to live. The case falls into Fiona’s hands just as her husband asks for permission – to have an affair.
Of course, it is not that simple a decision, the court decision, that is. Or is it?
Adam Henry, just months away from his 18th birthday, is being treated for leukemia. A Jehovah Witness, he has refused the blood transfusion he desperately needs, which is forbidden by his religion. Still legally a child, his parents concur, as do the elders of his church. Adam’s doctors are seeking a legal decision in favor of a transfusion in order to save his life. Both sides pose formidable arguments.
After listening to both positions, Fiona suspends court proceedings and goes to visit Adam in his hospital room. She finds a desperately ill boy who is bright, engaging, thoughtful and inquisitive. Adam writes poetry and is learning to play the violin even as he is dying. She also finds that Adam, who insists on referring to Fiona in the courtly “my lady”, is rooted in his belief system, quoting chapter and verse of the Bible and resolute in his refusal of a blood transfusion. He seems to know his own mind.
My Lady and Adam form a courtly bond of sorts, he playing the violin, she singing along and gently correcting him on wrong notes. She is also an accomplished pianist and it is through her own musical performance that revelations about her decisions are later shown. Both boy and judge are moved in profound ways by the hospital visit – and transformed by Fiona’s ruling in unanticipated ways.
I found “The Children Act” to be a story that lingers still and leaves me with more questions than answers. “The Children Act” is about making thoughtful decisions after much discernment for all the right reasons only to be faced with unfathomable consequences. There is a particularly revelatory moment when Adam expresses in writing his feelings at the ruling. It is so well-formed and executed that it lingers, rather like the audio that sits on the seat of my car, patiently waiting for me to do something with it, which I can’t for it would give away the storyline.
I’m not sure that this post expresses my thoughts as I wanted them to, but, I tried. I think it best that I leave my words here and take another stroll about the garden and ponder a bit more about “The Children Act” . Have you read “The Children Act” or any of Ian McEwan’s other works?