McEwan's latest novel initially had me captivated, but something--mainly, my interest--got a little lost along the way. Fiona Maye, a British judge who decides cases involving child welfare, has just reached a number of difficult and controversial decisions. One concerned the custody of two young girls whose parents belong to a strict Jewish sect. Unable to bear more children, the mother enrolled in open university classes and began to pursue a career, becoming more "worldly" in the process, much to the dismay of her husband. The second was the case of conjoined twins, one of whom could survive if they were separated; if not, both were doomed to die. The hospital asked the court to intervene because the parents believed that whatever happened was God's will. Now, sitting on her desk, is yet another difficult case. Adam Henry, just three months shy of his majority (18), suffers from leukemia, but he and his parents, who are Jehovah's Witnesses, reject the blood transfusions that could save his life. In making her decision, Fiona tries to keep focused strictly on the letter of the law, the sanctity of individual faith, and the welfare of the child in question. However, her ability to keep her professional life separate from her personal life quavers when she meets Adam, a sensitive, self-assured, intelligent young man. For in the midst of all this, Fiona's marriage has begun to fall apart. Her husband announces that, with her permission, he would like to have an affair while he is still capable, complaining that she has no interest in sex and is just no fun anymore. He also feels that she has become closed off and is keeping things to herself that he wishes she would share. Fiona begins to contemplate the past: what she has given up for the sake of her career, including having children of her own. In some ways, I would have been happier had the novel ended with Fiona's decision, or perhaps with Adam's letter in response to it. But, as is usual for McEwan, things take a detour that is a bit off kilter. Of course, this leads to more self-analysis on Fiona's part--another hallmark of McEwan's work. In this regard, The Children Act is somewhat reminiscent of another brief novel, On Chesil Beach. All in all, this was an engaging read up to the rather muddled, unsatisfactory conclusion. Definitely worth reading, but not among McEwan's best. If you haven't read Atonement or On Chesil Beach, pick those up first.