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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
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.
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. Her husband, Mark, is an awful person with no redeeming qualities (the best that can be said of him is that he doesn't actually hit her). We're told his conversation on their first meeting is scintillating, but we don't see that; what we do see is all warning signs and no charm, so it's hard to imagine why anyone would marry him. Meanwhile her partner, Bee, is a great person with no bothersome qualities, and it's hard to say anything about their relationship except that it's apparently perfect.
And sometimes the summary is rushed to the point of improbable omissions in the characters' lives: for instance, Pat and Bee don't talk about their prior sexual experience (or lack thereof) until several years into their relationship? This seems to happen not because of any reticence on their part, but rather because from the author's standpoint, they've only been together for a chapter.
As for the alternate history, I found it unsatisfying, particularly when the book indicates that the path the world takes depends on Patricia's decision. If one obscure woman's choice to marry or not is meant to determine the fate of the world within a few short years, I want to be shown how and why, not just have all explanations waved away with the words "butterfly effect."
So I am left where I so often am with Jo Walton's books: the writing is good, the ideas are great, and the story and characters have a lot of potential but would have been more effective with more development. As is, this isn't bad, but for alternate lives and possibilities I would recommend Life After Life before this - a much longer book, but for me a more memorable and satisfying one.
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
My Real Children
By Jo Walton
The first Jo Walton book I have read
The premise is of a woman who lived in two universes intrigued me...Read more