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