Approaching age 60 and childless, Fiona Maye is a family court judge who must decide if 17 year-old Adam has the right to refuse blood transfusions for his leukemia. He and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Children Act does not allow a child to make this decision until age 18. Fiona is an atheist and her 35-year marriage to an academic is falling apart.  She takes the extraordinary step of visiting Adam to know him and understand his conviction. He is beautiful and gifted, he writes poetry and plays violin. Why would he not want to try to live? She makes her decision having no idea if it will be morally, legally or medically right. To say more would spoil it.


A remarkable story that, like all McEwan’s work, focuses on the inner dilemmas of everyday life. He explodes a single instant into pages of riveting prose—and, like collisions in a cloud chamber, shows how a tiny event can alter destiny.   Although she is a judge, Fiona’s dilemma with young Adam will be familiar to any health care provider who deals with children who have terminal illness. At what age are they able to make decisions for themselves? How much can the state intervene in a parental relationship, especially when stripping them of control will surely do irreparable moral damage for the sake of ends that are by no means guaranteed?   Fiona’s own childlessness and the collapse of her marriage ought to be kept separate from her work on the bench. Yet is that ever really possible?


Vintage Canada Penguin Random House



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