Friday, August 22, 2014

My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children by Jo Walton is a fascinating, character-driven alternate history for grown-ups.

Patricia is very old (she can't quite remember how old), and she's in a nursing home. "Confused today," the nurses write on her chart, or, "Very confused." They often write, "Very confused." It's true. It's not exactly that Patricia can't remember certain things -- it's that she remembers two lives. Did she marry Mark shortly after college, or did she find happiness a little later in life with Bee? Did she have three children, or four? Was her time spent writing travel guides about Italy, or did she volunteer with groups devoted to preventing nuclear war? She can't even remember whether she went by Pat or Trish for most of her adult life. Patricia loves all of her children, and though one of her lives may have been happier than the other, both had moments of beauty and truth. Must she choose between them?

This is a lovely, haunting book. It bears within it a lot of sadness, and it's by no means a light read, but it is just beautiful. I'm also impressed at the way Walton plays with the chronology, creating not one alternate history, but two. (I kept trying to figure out which of Patricia's lives was the "real" one, but neither exactly mirrors the world as we know it.) This is a book I know I'll want to revisit in the future, and I know it's one that will only improve upon rereading.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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