In what the author Ian McEwan calls the "infancy of old age," British Family Court Judge Fiona Maye has a middle-aged crisis. That's what the 2014 novel "The Children Act" narrates. Here you can order it from Amazon. McEwan also wrote that best-seller "Atonement."
Like most who find themselves in that kind of pickle, she is thrown off her game. Both personally and professionally.
In her private life she is shocked by her husband's decision to leave her for a Millennial. He wants to experiment sexually. Also he feels that Fiorna has shut him out. She is all-work. She lives in her head. But, as a university professor, so does he.
His leaving triggers her regrets about never having children and fears about becoming a social outcast. No fool, Fiona knows that British society in the 21st century operates much as it did in the 19th.
Professionally, she makes the odd decision to personally visit in the hospital the 17-year-old boy whose Jehovah's Witness religion forbides a life-saving transfusion. His parents and the religion's elders have convinced him that is the will of god.
Perhaps because of her vulnerability, at the hospital they bond. Her approach with him breaks the usual legal-kind of protocol. She realizes she is doing that and wonders if the social worker in the room is taking that down in her notes. But she can't stop herself.
In her ruling the next day, Fiona mandates the transfusion. Recovered, the boy is on the one hand grateful to be alive. On the other hand, he loses his centering. He breaks with his religion and his family. He begins stalking the judge.
Like her husband, she betrays her marriage vows. When the boy catches up with her at a conference, she kisses him on the lips. There is electricity. He wants to move in with her and her husband. Abruptly, she exits what she had started. She does not respond to his letters.
Of course, tragedy happens, just like it does in "The Dead Poet's Society." His illness returns. At that age of majority he can refuse the transfusion, although no longer following his former religion. Fiona recognizes this as a form of suicide. The reasonable judge, who had judged both her husband and her colleagues harshly, recognizes that human beings aren't always reasonable. And when they are not reasonable they do stupid things.
Along the way in the narrative the husband has returned. They both must live with reality that they don't really understand how force fields can overtake respected professionals like themselves. The marriage might never get back to where it had been but a humbled Fiornia might give it a shot. On the bench she might be less smug. And, she might not be so strident in assessing her fellow judges' mistakes.
Fiona's story is painful to experience because what's obvious is that there is no certainty, no absolutely right answer, and no path taken without regrets.