This is a dark short story about survival, compulsion, and an inevitably developing obsession. As the reader goes forward, an expectation develops of WHAT is going to happen. The artistry of the author is in the description of HOW the expectation is realized.

The Cement Garden                                                               by Ian McEwan

Seven characters move this story forward. Dad and Mom appear and disappear early in the story. Dad has a bit of obsession. He, Mom, and the kids live in a stark, fortress like stone building. This image complements the idea of “cement.” Dad is going to extend the solid image of the house by extending the amount of land covered by cement to create a “rock garden.” Despite a heart condition, Dad works hard. The main narrator, a son late in the story identified as Jack, helps Dad move and mix the cement for the garden construction. Jack is careful to not help too much. He wants Dad to overstress. Dad complies out of a sense of stubbornness, pride, and immortality. Wrong choice. Dad dies.