Ian McEwan – “The Children Act”

In the summer of 2019 I began work towards a graduate certificate in English so that I could pick up additional credentials to teach English courses at the community college. My first course was on British literature, and I was introduced to Ian McEwan. His book, “Amsterdam”, was riveting, and so I tucked him away in the back of my mind with the intention of reading more of his work later. The time came, and I started another of his books, “The Children Act”.

This book focuses on a Fiona, a high court judge that focuses on family situations. She and her husband are having some marital issues, and her focus is mainly on her work rather than her husband. While law is certainly not my area of expertise, I do follow cases now and then as they apply to my work as a Political Science instructor. The cases described that Fiona has to address certainly caught my attention, and many of them focus on religion. Keep in mind, McEwan is a British author, so I had to put my “1st Amendment” mentality to the side. For example, do the Catholic parents of a set of conjoined twins have the authority to deny separation surgery because it would result in the death of one of the children whose body simply can’t survive?

The main case, however, involves a boy, Adam, who, along with his parents, are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. Adam is fighting Leukemia, and his doctors strongly recommend a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, Adam’s faith prohibits blood transfusion, and his parents have forbid the doctors from proceeding, noting that they would be shunned by their community. Adam, who is a few months shy of turning 18, is still legally a child, and thus there is a legal debate over whether or not he is able to make his own decision regarding the transfusion. Fiona must determine if Adam is truly capable of making his own decision, given the influence of his parents and their faith. She decides on an unorthodox visit to his hospital room, and it is there they both have an enlightening experience that changes both of them.

This book was amazing! Not only did the backstory grab my attention, the debates over the legal role of the courts in handling issues of faith struck me as interesting and applicable to what I teach. I felt for both Fiona and Adam, and they were both engaging characters. McEwan definitely hit a home run with this one. I’m currently trying to track down a copy of the movie that was produced based on the book, as I’d love to see how it transitioned to the silver screen. Regardless, the book was definitely one I’d recommend. It’s a pretty quick read (about 6 hours), and it’ll keep you hooked up until the end!

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