My Real Children

My Real Children

Book - 2014
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It's 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. "Confused today," read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know--what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don't seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev. Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War, those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?
Publisher: New York :, Tor,, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780765332653
Branch Call Number: FIC WALTON 2014
Characteristics: 320 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

matilda9 May 02, 2014

The notion that one personal choice can make an astounding difference, not just in our lives, but in the lives of the planet around us, is a fascinating one; it's given an even deeper look in MY REAL CHILDREN as Walton gives the gift of the ultimate of remembering to a woman suffering from dement... Read More »

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Jan 27, 2018

Walton's meditation on family, difference, and happiness is a compelling read. She tells her two stories with divergent paths with honesty and a genuine care for her character's lives. The parallel structure kept the pacing and the maturation of the characters in a fascinating dance, significantly different but clearly connected, especially by the key themes of women's oppression. My only quibble was with the sci fi/alternate history components, which felt oddly plugged into the story. Her central conceit of two lives lived in one lifetime is good on its own and she keeps a well-worn plot device interesting by her story-telling.

CRRL_MegRaymond Oct 03, 2017

Patricia is elderly and suffering from dementia. She can’t remember current events, but the past is alive and vivid. But which past? The one where she had a husband named Mark and four children? Or the one where she raises three children with Bee? Was she called Trish? Or Pat?

Apr 23, 2017

Interesting literary idea, but I think she tried to do too much in this book. Felt like much was a simple reporting of the happenings in the two lives.

Sep 10, 2014

I'm a lesbian and wanted to like this book. I imagine that Jo Walton wanted to show how unfairly gay people were treated, not so long ago, but the children and Bee's injuries just wore me out.

Jul 18, 2014

Jo Walton is a story-teller.

What is it about an author's style that makes a reader read and read and read? From one sentence to the next, I was not reading a book, I was living a story. How does she do that?

(Do you think I liked MY REAL CHILDREN?)

Patricia is at the end of her life. She suffers as her mother did from Alzheimer's/dementia/"I forgot who I am". But she does remember her life. Trouble is, she remembers two lives. Which life is true, which life happened? My only problem with this book is that I was so looking forward to Ms. Walton's neatly wrapping up these tales with satisfying answers. Spoiler alert! she doesn't. She leaves you with questions: Do our choices affect the world? Would you choose differently if you could see the detailed movie of the life a choice would make?

Read MY REAL CHILDREN, you will like it. And if you haven't yet, then read TOOTH AND CLAW. And I'm checking my library for what else this gifted author has given the world.

Michael Colford Jul 13, 2014

Patricia is feeling confused today. At least that's what the note by her bed tells her. In fact, at her advanced age, in the nursing home where she lives, she often feels confused and forgetful, but what's she remembers distinctly are the two lives that crowd her memory. One where she married Mark and raised four children in a world that is at peace and has a colony on the moon; and another where she spent her life with her beloved Bee and their three children, on a beleaguered planet suffering from nuclear detonations and fatal fallout.

Jo Walton, whose last novel, Among Others is among my favorite reads, spins a straight-forward, subtle tale of a woman's life, or rather, two lives, and how a single decision can propel that life into two very different paths. And could that one person's quiet, unassuming life also have major repercussions across the globe? Just like the theory that the flap of a butterfly's wing can cause a hurricane halfway around the world, Walton wonders if a single decision could make the difference between peace and violence. Which life would you choose if given the choice?

Jun 23, 2014

I'll read anything Jo Walton writes because everything else I've read by her is outstanding.

Here the writing in terms of language and wordchoice is terrific.

But except for one choice that split the world in two, the characters just seemed to bounce along with external events.

And if the central choice caused the huge difference between the two worlds, we never found out how.

ehbooklover Jun 19, 2014

A book about the how one person’s decision, no matter how small, can affect their life’s path and perhaps even change the world. An intriguing premise and thought provoking theme kept me reading despite the fact that most of the characters in the book seemed underdeveloped and one dimensional.

multcolib_rachaels May 27, 2014

In her confused state near the end of her life, Patricia Cowan has two sets of memories of two very different lives, diverging at the point where her fiance gave her an ultimatum. In both she finds both joy and sadness, and witnesses two very different worlds take shape.

matilda9 May 02, 2014

The notion that one personal choice can make an astounding difference, not just in our lives, but in the lives of the planet around us, is a fascinating one; it's given an even deeper look in MY REAL CHILDREN as Walton gives the gift of the ultimate of remembering to a woman suffering from dementia. She can remember, in her old age and near death, the diverging paths of her life, and the joy and pain of each. This tremendous book shows how we can find love in the most wondrous places, and how there are many different ways to be happy and find satisfaction.

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Apr 20, 2014

She hadn't been important, in either world, she hadn't been somebody whose choices could have changed worlds. But what if she had been? What if everyone was?

Apr 20, 2014

Now or never, Trish or Pat, peace or war, loneliness or love? She wouldn't have been the person her life had made her if she could have made any other answer.


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