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My Real Children Hardcover – May 20, 2014
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“My Real Children has as much in common with an Alice Munro story as it does with, say, Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle . Good novels show us a character's destiny as an expression of who they fundamentally are. What most novels do only once, My Real Children does twice.” ―Lev Grossman
“My Real Children starts quietly, then suddenly takes you on two roller-coaster rides at once, swooping dizzily through a double panorama and ending in a sort of super Sophie's Choice. A daring tour de force.” ―Ursula K. Le Guin
“Such a wise book, about sweetness in sorrow, without any sentiment... It's easy to write a sad book, but this one uplifts and sweetens even as it tears your heart to pieces. Astounding work, even by Walton's incredibly high standards.” ―Cory Doctorow
“It amazes me a little, the ease with which such a quiet tale and such spare prose managed to engage my brain, boil my blood, and-- ultimately-- break my heart. Thank you, Ms. Walton, for showing me how it's done.” ―Peter Watts
“A dizzying array of astonishments unfolding, a Chinese box of surprises. Once started, it is extraordinarily difficult to put this book down, even for dinner, even for bed.” ―Jane Yolen
“Jo Walton is inimitable... This book is heartbreaking and hilarious, finding profundity in the most minute personal details and individual meaning in the largest events.” ―Pamela Dean
“An achingly beautiful book... After you read the last page, you will never be able to see any history, yours or the world's, in quite the same way.” ―Susan Palwick
“Breathtakingly good! I really didn't want it to end, but I had to keep turning pages to see how it came out. A novel for grown-ups, even ones who think they 'don't like science fiction.” ―Ellen Kushner
“A wonderfully absorbing book...The characters are very real, the plot as complex as origami, the theme timeless. I lost sleep reading it, and dreamed about it when I did sleep.” ―Delia Sherman
“Lyrical and brilliant. Jo Walton takes "What If" to a new level.” ―Ellen Klages
“My Real Children is about ordinary lives, lives filled with love and heartbreak, parents and children, friends and ideas and books and cooking--and at the same time it's so gripping, so compulsively readable, that you can't wait to find out what happens next... A fascinating, poignant answer to the question everyone asks sooner or later: What if I hadn't made that choice? What if I'd done something differently?” ―Lisa Goldstein
“In her greatest novel, George Eliot attributed the growing good of the world to the actions of ordinary people, to which Jo Walton responds in My Real Children, 'What if?'” ―Sherwood Smith
About the Author
JO WALTON won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Tooth and Claw in 2004. Her several other novels include the acclaimed Small Change alternate-history trilogy, comprising Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown. Her novel Among Others won the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 2012. She is a columnist on Tor.com. A native of Wales, she lives in Montreal.
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Top Customer Reviews
Patricia Cowan is a very old woman with dementia, but her symptoms go beyond the expected: she remembers two distinct lives, two different partners, two sets of children - who both come to visit her in two different nursing homes. This book follows her throughout both of her lives: through her childhood, to the point of divergence in 1949 (when she accepts a proposal of marriage, or doesn't), and then through alternating chapters in two increasingly different worlds. There are actually two alternate histories here - one a more peaceful and accepting version of 20th century history, the other more violent and ugly. The history plays out in the background, however, in asides while our protagonist goes through her life as either Pat or Trish.
This is a story told largely in summary, as it tries to capture all important events in two different lives in just over 300 pages. In some ways that's a strength, as Walton captures the scope of two entire lives with relatively few words. The children in particular come vividly to life with just a few deft strokes. The way the two lives unfold in counterpoint is clever and well-done, and for narrative summary, the story manages to be quite compelling. On the other hand, this technique also distances the reader from the characters, a problem particularly evident in both of Patricia's relationships.Read more ›
The framing story is that Pat/Trish has inherited dementia, and is in a nursing home, and is "confused". Part of her confusion is that she distinctly remembers two different and incompatible lives, both with their joys and sorrows. Her own live diverged when she said "yes" or "no" to a marriage proposal; however, while I don't see that her life caused history to change, the world was also very different in these 2 threads, implying a greater range of alternatives than are depicted here.
I really loved that this was so focused on the personal, rather then Saving The World. Pat/Trish's choices do make a difference... but mostly for herself and her families.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." This book is about that.
One of the most powerful, and best, novels I've ever read.
Honestly whether Pat or Tricia it’s very well written. You do care about her. It does get kind of boring as it winds down but again most of life gets kind of boring as it winds down- it felt like a lot of reading off a list the last years; people died, people were born, Pat did this, Tricia did that and then the kids did this and that but those books always get me. The other issue for me was she sees the split in her life as whether or not she decides to marry Mark. While I definitely agree it’s a life choice even before she married him I couldn’t see any reason why she would. Meanwhile her partner in the other life is so perfect that she handles being crippled with the kind of aplomb that could be ascribed to a saint. Not much subtly in the romantic partners so when Patricia sums up her question as which life would you chose for me I couldn’t see how there was any question which one a person would chose.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book because while the backdrop is alternate history, then unlike most science fiction and fantasy novels which are "the fate of the world depends on you",... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Jessica C.
This book is slow at the beginning but once you get into it, you don't want to put it down. I love the split plot and such real characters. I would read this again.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
In the grips of dementia, Patricia remembers the two parallel paths of her long life. This frame narration is interesting but too concise, particularly in the book's resolution. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Juushika
The narrative is very plain and straightforward, almost as if you were reading a summary of a life. However, I found I had to keep reading. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Andrew Gray
"My Real Children" has a wonderfully interesting premise. The idea of someone realizing that they could remember having lived two completely different lives over the same... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Josh
Yes, the main device of this novel is decision a young woman makes around marriage. But from this choice comes two different worlds both deviating from our own. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ross
As always, Jo Walton packs an emotional punch mixed with a fascinating what-if. I can't recommend this book strongly enough.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer