The Children Act
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One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, BookRiot
Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family division. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.
At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.
they were hauled to court on trolleys, into hours of educated wrangling, procedural hearings, deferred decisions, the whole circus rising, but so slowly, through the judicial hierarchy like a lopsided, ill-tethered hot-air balloon. If the parents could not agree, the law, reluctantly, must take the decisions. Fiona would preside with all the seriousness and obedience to process of a nuclear scientist. Preside over what had begun with love and ended in loathing. The whole business should have been
the consultant hematologist.” “Very well.” Mr. Rodney Carter took the stand and was sworn in. Tall, stooping, severe, thick white eyebrows from under which he glared with ferocious disdain. From the top pocket of his pale gray three-piece suit there protruded a blue silk handkerchief. He gave the impression that he considered the court procedure a nonsense and that the boy should be dragged by the scruff of his neck to an immediate transfusion. There followed standard questions to establish
Again he included Fiona in his answer, and there was warmth in his voice. “The Holy Spirit guides the anointed representatives—we call them the slaves, Your Honor—it helps them toward deep truths that weren’t previously understood.” He turned back to Berner and said matter-of-factly, “The Governing Body is Jehovah’s channel of communication to us. It’s his voice. If there are changes in the teaching it’s because God only gradually reveals his purpose.” “This voice doesn’t tolerate much dissent.
Fiona, “I’ll be right outside.” When they were alone she said, “Shouldn’t I think there’s something spooky about you following me home, and then here?” “Oh no! Please don’t think that. It’s not like that.” He cast around with an impatient movement, as though an explanation were written somewhere in the room. “Look, you saved my life. And it’s not only that. My dad tried to keep it from me, but I read your judgment. You said you wanted to protect me from my religion. Well, you have. I’m saved!”
comments. That was the point. It’s this thing you have. It added up to something. You didn’t have to say it. A way of thinking and talking. If you don’t know what I mean, go and listen to the elders. And when we did our song …” She said briskly, “Are you still playing the violin?” He nodded. “And the poetry?” “Yes, lots. But I hate the stuff I was writing before.” “Well, you’re good. I know you’ll write something wonderful.” She saw the dismay in his eyes. She was distancing herself,