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My Real Children

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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 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? Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan's lives...and of how every life means the entire world.


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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 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? Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan's lives...and of how every life means the entire world.

30 review for My Real Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nataliya

    It all comes down to a choice. Sixty years ago Patricia Cowan received an angry ultimatum that pushed her onto the crossroads of life. 'Now or never!' the angry voice demanded. “Oh Mark,” she said. “If it’s to be now or never then—" And without much hesitation, Patricia chose "now". Or maybe, without much hesitation, she firmly chose "never". And each of these choices sent her life spiraling down a completely different path, these path diverging so steeply. A life of love and a life or loneliness, a It all comes down to a choice. Sixty years ago Patricia Cowan received an angry ultimatum that pushed her onto the crossroads of life. 'Now or never!' the angry voice demanded. “Oh Mark,” she said. “If it’s to be now or never then—" And without much hesitation, Patricia chose "now". Or maybe, without much hesitation, she firmly chose "never". And each of these choices sent her life spiraling down a completely different path, these path diverging so steeply. A life of love and a life or loneliness, a world of peace and a world of wars, the lives filled with very different - and yet all hers, all real - children. “She was just an old woman with memory problems. Or maybe two old women with memory problems. She laughed to herself. She was herself, whether she was Pat or Trish. They knew different things and cared about different people, but she was the same person she had always been. She was the girl who had stood before the sea in Weymouth and in Barrow-in-Furness, the woman who had stood before Botticelli and before hostile council meetings. It didn’t matter what they called her, Patricia or Patsy or Trish or Pat. She was herself. She had loved Bee, and Florence, and all her children.” Now almost ninety, Patricia Cowan no longer needs to wonder what would have happened if the choice she had made many decades ago had been different. Now frail and living in a nursing home, suffering from dementia and usually "very confused" as her chart states, she knows exactly what would have had happened - or, perhaps, simply what had happened - in both of her lives, as she is suddenly plagued with the knowledge that she lives in two different worlds, with two different - and both very real - sets of memories. Jo Walton's My Real Children is another of those stories that have very little of sci-fi vibe to them despite being put under my favorite genre umbrella. Its unusual premise - living two parallel lives side by side - is perfect for the gentle description of a life lived, with its regrets and consequences and quiet happy moments and heartbreaking times that relentlessly slice through your soul. Two lives that yet read as one, each spun as a gentle chronicle, flying first through years, then through decades, each showing a tapestry of what eventually each thread of life weaves. Two lives, so different from one another, but both leading us to the Patricia Cowan of today, almost ninety and confused in the nursing home, inhabiting one - or both - of the worlds that are a bit different from the one we know, one with a peaceful research station on the moon, another with nuclear missiles pointed at us from the moon. “She had made a choice already, one choice that counted among the myriad choices of her life. She had made it not knowing where it led. Could she made it again, knowing? She sat down carefully on the edge of the bed and looked up at the blur that was one moon or the other. How many worlds were there? One? Two? An infinite number? Was there a world where she could have both happiness and peace?” This book started with me a bit confused - why is it sci-fi, why is it this way, why is it just a story of life (or lives) without much else happening? But as the story continued, I realized that Walton's storytelling has completely captivated me, that the development of the characters of both Patricias resonated with me on some intangible level, and that the spirit and rhythm of narration created a gentle charm of literary magic that was unwilling to let me shrug it off any more. Very subtly it immersed me into the story, and before I knew it I was living it, seeing the world through both Pat's and Trish's eyes, and feeling the unexpected love and kinship with both of the women. And I loved it. And that closing chapter, tying everything together - it made me catch my breath for a moment, and ponder about my own choices, and made me so grateful that, unlike Patricia, I can only see one road I've taken in life. 4.5/5 stars. “She felt again the Bakelite of the receiver in her hand and heard Mark’s voice in her ear. “Now or never!” 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.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    Jo Walton’s books always seem to come out around 3.5 stars for me: I like them, but not as much as I want to. I keep coming back because she is a good writer, and because, unlike most fantasy authors, she has a talent for telling a story in one book without padding, and for telling a unique story every time. That holds true here, though again my response was lukewarm. Patricia Cowan is a very old woman with dementia, but her symptoms go beyond the expected: she remembers two distinct lives, two d Jo Walton’s books always seem to come out around 3.5 stars for me: I like them, but not as much as I want to. I keep coming back because she is a good writer, and because, unlike most fantasy authors, she has a talent for telling a story in one book without padding, and for telling a unique story every time. That holds true here, though again my response was lukewarm. 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. (view spoiler)[It’s almost as if Walton herself had divorced the guy, and was unwilling to give him any credit whatsoever. (hide spoiler)] 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I think I'm going to allow myself a completely biased review. I'm going to be utterly, shamelessly gonzo. Just a warning, though: This is mostly a character study. Only the end proffers up a choice. The rest of the time, we're given to enjoy two characters who are the same woman, Pat and Tricia, who both live in completely different realities and who make very different choices, but she they later begin to bleed together into one consciousness, but only later in life. Sound like it's up your alley? I think I'm going to allow myself a completely biased review. I'm going to be utterly, shamelessly gonzo. Just a warning, though: This is mostly a character study. Only the end proffers up a choice. The rest of the time, we're given to enjoy two characters who are the same woman, Pat and Tricia, who both live in completely different realities and who make very different choices, but she they later begin to bleed together into one consciousness, but only later in life. Sound like it's up your alley? There's very little action besides living a life or two, full of happiness and unhappiness, tragedies and triumphs, and, as the title implies, a lot of children. So what is this novel, then? It's deceptively simple and oh so horribly complex at the same time. From the surface, it's utterly charming and a perfect joy to read, letting us see different sides of not just Pat/Tricia, but so many other people as well, surprising us with the sheer multitude of directions that any of us could have taken at any point, if things were just a little bit different. Like the ideas that a more permissible social world could exist and lead naturally to higher technological progress, or how a more repressed world could paradoxically promote wider peace, nothing is entirely clear-cut, but it was great to see our world butt-up against another with moon colonies and an actual Mars mission by today's date. Don't get me wrong. This novel isn't precisely an alternate history novel. There are background elements of it, but the real importance is all character-based. :) She isn't important, so she says, but I choose to read the novel in a slightly different way. Under the surface, I see a lot of implications and near-wish fulfillment, an alternate and glorious escape from some of the less-talked about horrors of our world: Agism, age-related memory problems, the assumption that older people can go crazy based on an outside view, but perhaps it's all MUCH different in reality. Maybe those old people are only behaving that way because they're combining completely different realities and getting confused, naturally, because they both happened. It's so beautiful. It's revolutionary. Hell, I may not look at another old person the same way again. Because... WHAT IF???? Amazing. Cool. YAY! This may be a wonderful character study of a novel, full of so much coolness and real people, but more than that, it's doing something only the very best SF can accomplish. It surprises and makes us wonder. So after all this, I'm telling you, dear reader, that this book KICKS BUTT! :) :) :)

  4. 4 out of 5

    B Schrodinger

    Jo Walton sure knows how to pull on my heart strings. Among Others charmed me and spoke to me on so many levels, even though I did not grow up a girl in Wales in the 1970's and 80's. Jo's new novel has the same feel as her previous, but tells a different story. This is the story of Patricia, born in the 1930's and who grew up during World War II. Patricia falls in love with an intelligent young man who attends her university and they become engaged. But when her fiance phones to say that his fut Jo Walton sure knows how to pull on my heart strings. Among Others charmed me and spoke to me on so many levels, even though I did not grow up a girl in Wales in the 1970's and 80's. Jo's new novel has the same feel as her previous, but tells a different story. This is the story of Patricia, born in the 1930's and who grew up during World War II. Patricia falls in love with an intelligent young man who attends her university and they become engaged. But when her fiance phones to say that his future plans must change and that she must decide of she wants to marry this minute or never, Patricia has a big decision to make. And she makes both. Yes this is Sliding Doors, minus Gwyneth and probably minus the lame (I've never seen the movie). The novel is a biography of both Patricias and the life that they live in their alternative universes, as both are not our universes, with the history and events in both a little different. But like Among Others it's the characters that you love and sometimes love to hate that make the novel. We are endeared to Patricia in both universes. She is the type of person who you would have loved to have as a friend. But she goes through the trials and tribulations of life in both universes. Critics may call this a drama, and it certainly is very drama for my usual standards, but I guess that says a lot about the talent of Jo. Yes she can make a grown man who loves spaceships read a drama. And I loved it. After all a great story is a great story. Sure the little snippets of alternate history were great, but so were the passages on what love is and how families work together and the value of friendships. There is so much that I could talk about, events in the book, who did you like most, but I don't want you all to have spoilers. There is a more to this than a simple Sliding Doors tale, much more indeed. And it's all tied together nicely at the end. Not too perfectly mind you (in a good way). This is one of those special reads that you come across now and then. It's lucky if you find one once every year. But a two out of two record for special reads from Jo is something not to be sniffed at. You can definitely class me as a big fan of Jo Walton.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This book started off so well and held so much promise in the first chapter. How could one person be able to remember living two totally different lives? What could have caused this to happen? Were both lives real or was one of them imagined? Are there in fact parallel worlds? It could have been a really good book if the author had offered a satisfactory answer to these questions. Sadly she chickened out at the end and left the reader hanging. Apart from that the concept was good and the two par This book started off so well and held so much promise in the first chapter. How could one person be able to remember living two totally different lives? What could have caused this to happen? Were both lives real or was one of them imagined? Are there in fact parallel worlds? It could have been a really good book if the author had offered a satisfactory answer to these questions. Sadly she chickened out at the end and left the reader hanging. Apart from that the concept was good and the two parallel stories were somewhat interesting although they became tedious in the middle. This book is categorised as science fiction but the link to that genre is tenuous at best. I probably would have enjoyed it more if Ihad not been expecting something SciFi- ish. It would be better classified as contemporary fiction.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    Jo Walton has won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards a couple of years ago, for her novel Among Others, a curious genre novel where the fantasy and science-fiction elements of the story were kept to minimum. The appeal was more in the character study and in the ways literature can influence and enrich a life. I will not be surprised if this new book from the author repeats the performance, and makes a good showing at the award ceremonies. The science-fiction elements are once again kept to a mi Jo Walton has won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards a couple of years ago, for her novel Among Others, a curious genre novel where the fantasy and science-fiction elements of the story were kept to minimum. The appeal was more in the character study and in the ways literature can influence and enrich a life. I will not be surprised if this new book from the author repeats the performance, and makes a good showing at the award ceremonies. The science-fiction elements are once again kept to a minimum and subtly deployed, making the character and social study more important than the speculative ideas. Instead of a teenager dealing with a broken family and with alienation within a foreign culture, we are following this time one woman over her entire lifetime, from her childhood in pre-War England to her last years in the very near future (2015). The novel is actually a memoir, a biopic of a fictional character, a long series of flashbacks. What makes the story special is the fact that Patricia remembers not one, but two parallel lives, both equally convincing, both 'real' to her. How can she tell which one is false when she remembers so many details, when her children from both realities visit her in the asylum? She is VC, meaning very confused, a condition explained by a degenerative disease inherited from her mother. But there may be more to the parallel lives, and the reader needs to be patient, to follow Patricia / Patsy / Patty / Tricia / Trish / Pat through long decades of both pain and happiness, through marriages and travels and child rearing, before the mystery of the two realities can be explained. She had made choices. Thinking about that she felt the strange doubling, the contradictory memories, as if she had two histories that both led her to this point, this nursing home. Without giving too many spoilers away, it pretty much boils down to choices, to the debate between predestination and free-will. Patricia's two paths in life are the result not only of her social conditions (education, temperament, affluence) but also of the choices she made at key points during her lifetime, with the most important one revealed in the opening chapters. She must decide whether she will marry or not Mark, the first man to ask her. With the major focus of the novel on traditional versus modern marriage, on women's emancipation, on gender roles and sexual liberty - the book addresses issues of a more general interest than expected for a genre novel, but SF fans will still be intrigued by the subtle changes in the recent history most of us are familiar with, changes that affect both of the fictional lives Patricia reminisces about. In one timeline, the world sees a steeper descent into armed conflict in international relations, including deployment of nuclear bombs, and a more pronounced escalation of terrorism and intransigence. In the second timeline, peaceful demonstrations and more level-headed leaders avoid the catastrophic destruction and usher in a more collaborative UN and more personal freedoms, more tolerance towards people with different sexual proclivities. (view spoiler)[ Why Walton has developed these two alternate histories becomes clear only in the final pages when Patricia puts in balance personal happiness with larger social equality, peace and a sustainable future. What would she choose if she were given the chance to start all over? Her own wellbeing, or a better world? (hide spoiler)] The novel was a surprisingly fast read and kept me interested in the twists and turns of Patricia's two lives, despite being basically plotless and concerned throughout with domestic tasks and personal crises. Like the previous novel I've mentioned, there are many literary and artistic references, an insider look at the academic lifestyle at Cambridge and Oxford and numerous references to Italy and the Renaissance, especially about Florence, where Pat spends all her holidays in one of her past lives. Her fascination may be explained as a deep thirst for beauty and for personal development, an appeal for the reconsideration of our system of values and for a new Renaissance, a new age of humanism and artistic integrity. Here's a conversation taking place in the galleries of the Pitti Palazzo: - It makes you realize they were just people, people who were excited about art and making things and sharing it with other people who cared about it. - I wish people felt like that now. I mean it's fashionable to be cynical and jaded about everything, but when I look at the passion those Renaissance people had, that clarity of ... of caring about things, I envy them. There is such a wealth of emotion, of passion, of depth in Patricia, that I could easily imagine the novel being three times as long and still keep me interested in knowing her and sharing in her experiences. Some of her epiphanies give me a feeling of deja-vu, of thoughts and convictions I have arrived myself through my own journeys. For example, Pat is very religious, yet she distances herself from organized church and prefers a more intimate dialogue, direct and unconstrained by dogma: By the sea she always felt that God loved her and cared about her. She returned refreshed and ready to see the best in everyone. I could have easily given a full five rating for the novel, but I should also acknowledge that I had a couple of issues with the presentation: - There is so much ground to cover (more than eigth decades) that the narration, especially in the second half, becomes a synopsis, a sketch of events, a rush of years instead of days and months, introducing and passing over the most dramatic events in a human life sometimes in only a couple of paragraphs. To compound the issue, as she advances in age, Patricia's immediate family and her circle of friends expand exponentially. We are required to keep track of seven of eight children in two different timelines, each with their own love interests, marriages, children and intimate friends. The two alternate realities and the chaarcters belonging to each of them start to melt together and to confuse the inattentive reader. The move may well be a deliberate one, used to illustrate first the rushing of time everybody experiences as they get older and secondly the brain degeneracy that Patricia inherited from her mother. - Sometimes the message feels more important than the actual story, with the characters just excuses needed to illustrate the position the author takes on hot button issues. I often got the feeling that instead of a debate about the degradation of traditional family, the dangers of domestic abuse and the marginalization of same sex couples, I am reading a manifesto, that I am pushed forcibly into one position by the clear condemnation of some atitudes and by the similar strong endorsement of the opposite view. As with my previous complaint, I may be wrong, especially if I try to demonstrate that Patricia is a radical, inflexible and irrational person. The last quote I saved is just a fragment of a poem Patricia recites at one point, one that is probably very well known in the Anglo-Saxon world (for me it was just a vague recollection from a long ago lecture). Walton I think wants to encourage us to live our lives fully while we still can. On behalf of Patricia, I would add also that we should live our lives making sure that others also have a fair chance at happiness, because: But at my back I always hear time's winged chariot hurrying near. And yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    So, first off: I am completely, utterly biased. Jo sent me a copy to review, I had my own pre-ordered copy several days before the book released, I love her work in general, and she's been great to me. This doesn't speak to me in the same way Among Others did, but all the same, it's wonderful. I love the way the two timelines are handled, and I love the way that last chapter brings things back into alignment. I love that I was thinking all along that I wasn't sure about the narration, and yet so So, first off: I am completely, utterly biased. Jo sent me a copy to review, I had my own pre-ordered copy several days before the book released, I love her work in general, and she's been great to me. This doesn't speak to me in the same way Among Others did, but all the same, it's wonderful. I love the way the two timelines are handled, and I love the way that last chapter brings things back into alignment. I love that I was thinking all along that I wasn't sure about the narration, and yet somehow it worked and brought me to tears. The thing with the narration is, this is a short book to hold the sum of two lives. So at times the narration seems to summarise things that could have been interesting expanded. I wasn't sure for parts of it whether the emotional impact would still be there, but it is. In some places, it fits perfectly the way things happen: matter of fact, sudden, without announcing themselves first. I was thinking about whether I'd want it to be expanded, but I don't think I would. It would take away from the structure, the careful balance Jo builds. I love the fact that this book is jammed full of people. Gay people, out and closeted both; unconventional relationships and love that doesn't colour between the lines; families, built and chosen; people with disabilities who conform to no stereotype; pacifists and campaigners; scientists; women making their way in a sexist world and pushing the boundaries... All of them are handled with respect and care for their stories. The whole plot... I don't know how much is too much to give away, here. The final chapter just makes everything slide into place and come clear. You've got Pat/Trish living two separate lives, each with their own kinds of happiness and fulfillment. You think it's going to be simple to choose which one you'd prefer for her, and then if you just tilt to the head you can see why that wouldn't be the right choice. And I don't know if anyone else felt this, coming to the last page, but I don't actually know which version of herself Patricia chooses. It looks like a straight-up choice between personal happiness and wider well-being, but the whole book shows us the importance of tiny actions by a single person. Trish is a person who takes care of other people, who sacrifices her own well-being for that: does Patricia choose to follow her path, because that's part of who she is? Pat is a person who focuses on her family, who loves art, who makes the world a better place, but who is ultimately quite insular: does Patricia choose to follow Pat, because that insularity is part of her too? Saying that she couldn't make any other choice only makes sense after she's chosen.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    I have waffled back and forth between giving this book 4 or 5 stars—so let’s call it 4.5 stars. It really spoke to me—I loved the way Walton was so honest about the details of women’s lives and how true, at least to my life, it rang. What a great use of alternate history and different time lines! I have often speculated on how different life would be if different choices had been made through the course of my life. Thankfully, I’m pretty happy with how this particular time line has ended up for I have waffled back and forth between giving this book 4 or 5 stars—so let’s call it 4.5 stars. It really spoke to me—I loved the way Walton was so honest about the details of women’s lives and how true, at least to my life, it rang. What a great use of alternate history and different time lines! I have often speculated on how different life would be if different choices had been made through the course of my life. Thankfully, I’m pretty happy with how this particular time line has ended up for me, but I could see wondering about other realities if I were in an unhappy place. I also appreciated the fact that neither time line that Pat/Trish inhabited was our time line—history was different from what I know in both situations and that somehow that added to the authentic feel of the book. Plus, I find the central premise of the book to be so true—small decisions, as well as large ones, can change the course of a life. If I hadn’t gone to that particular workshop, then I wouldn’t have met this person, I wouldn’t have been recruited to a particular position and I wouldn’t have the same wonderful circle of friends that I currently enjoy. If I had chosen a different university to attend, I probably wouldn’t be living where I currently am with my current job. So, if there are alternate time lines, we each probably create many more than two! Life would bifurcate so often that it would become tremendously intricate. In both time lines, Pat/Trish has a lot to cope with—all while being told that her female needs and desires are second class to those of men and/or straight people. The importance of friends can’t be emphasized enough—I have often said of my life, men come and go, but my women friends are the bedrock of a stable happy life. Mind you, I have also observed that although I have never missed having a husband, I could really use a wife to provide the support services that men rely on, sometimes without appreciation (and yes, Trisha’s husband Mark, I am thinking of you as I write this!). I think the current rash of sexual violence/harassment cases that we have experienced here in Canada in the last several weeks reveals that male entitlement is alive & well—but we do seem to be recognizing it, naming it, and starting to deal with it. It gives me hope that the next generation of women will have less of this crap to deal with.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Supposedly science fiction (as indicated by the UFO sticker on the spine of my library book), this never lived up to its first chapter. It could have been so great! Alas. Tonally, it felt less like Life After Life (which was great) and Never Let Me Go (which handled subtle sci fi in a deliciously creepy manner) and more like the preachy, morally heavyhanded Christian novels I read in my adolescence. Additionally, the whole thing read like the world's longest Christmas letter, or as another revie Supposedly science fiction (as indicated by the UFO sticker on the spine of my library book), this never lived up to its first chapter. It could have been so great! Alas. Tonally, it felt less like Life After Life (which was great) and Never Let Me Go (which handled subtle sci fi in a deliciously creepy manner) and more like the preachy, morally heavyhanded Christian novels I read in my adolescence. Additionally, the whole thing read like the world's longest Christmas letter, or as another reviewer put it, an outline of a book rather than an actual book. And the science part of the fiction was... essentially nonexistent. I kept reading in the hopes that something would happen to justify, explain or expand the events of the first chapter, and it never did. So disappointed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    I absolutely love Jo Walton’s Among Others, a wonderful, heartwarming novel, with the added bonus of being a love letter of sorts for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I would have read many more of Ms. Walton’s books if not for the synopses of them which do not seem so appealing to me. Still, I thought it was about time I read something else by her having declared to be a fan after reading just one book. My Real Children is one of her highly-rated novels and the synopsis seemed interesting. As it turne I absolutely love Jo Walton’s Among Others, a wonderful, heartwarming novel, with the added bonus of being a love letter of sorts for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I would have read many more of Ms. Walton’s books if not for the synopses of them which do not seem so appealing to me. Still, I thought it was about time I read something else by her having declared to be a fan after reading just one book. My Real Children is one of her highly-rated novels and the synopsis seemed interesting. As it turned out My Real Children is oddly sci-fi* (or fantasy) that does not read like sci-fi most of the time. The novel is more concerned with character study and human drama than futuristic tech and aliens (of which there are none). The premise of the book, in sci-fi term, is like a parallel worlds story, except there is no mention of parallel worlds in the narrative or any explanation of how such a situation came to be. The life of the protagonist Patricia suddenly bifurcates into two timelines or paths. This occurs when she makes a momentous decision to marry a man called Mark / and also not to marry him. The narrative then alternately depicts her life and times of Pat in each reality. Initially, it seems that one reality is much happier than the other, which reminds me of this quote: This sounds quite fantastical but in execution, this book reads very much like a mainstream novel. Mark turns out to be a terrible, callous, selfish, unloving man. In this “married life reality” Pat comes to be called “Trish” by her friends (no significant reason, just for easy identification purposes for the reader I imagine). Trish leads a miserable oppressive life with Mark for years but gradually develops the fortitude to counter his abuses and eventually manages to turn her life into a happier one, also helped along by having several mostly good, intelligent, and successful children, including a rock, and star scientist. In the alternate Pat is only called Pat, having wisely decided not to marry Mark she lives a much happier life, if rather unconventional life, with a female partner. This narrative strand explores the life of a gay couple, the acceptances and rejections they encounter for their domestic arrangement. However, Pat wants children and manages to have several, with the help of a very kind male friend. Pat becomes a successful author of travel guides, her children also grow up to be successful and talented. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes which makes her “married life” very difficult but in this reality she also has considerable fortitude and manages well against all odds. I am both disappointed and satisfied with this book. As a sci-fi nerd looking for some mind-blowing flight of fancy I am disappointed. The two realities are mostly grounded in our real world’s mundanity, except for a few details like wars that never happened, research stations on the moon, and some strange geopolitical structures. However, these are mostly background details in a mostly grounded narrative. Fortunately, I am not a total philistine and I can recognize a good work of fiction when I read it. The book is beautifully written and the characters are extremely well developed. I came to care about Pat in both plotlines and felt quite moved by the end of the book. However, recommending this book is not a straightforward matter. I can't even say that if you love Jo Walton’s Hugo & Nebula award-winning Among Others you will love this because perhaps you won't. It depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking awesome sci-fi you should look elsewhere. However, if you are simply looking for a good book with believable characters, something you can emotionally connect with, and perhaps even ponder the meaning of life with, this may be just the thing. * Wikipedia classifies My Real Children as fantasy, I’ll just go with sci-fi if you don’t mind. The premise of this book is very similar to the 1998 movie Sliding Doors. Actually one of my favorites, the best Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance IMO. Quotes: “She remembered Kennedy being assassinated and she remembered him declining to run again after the Cuban missile exchange. They couldn’t both have happened, yet she remembered them both happening.” “And they all kept asking me if I’d met Prince Charles and Princess Camilla—for Republicans they’re awfully keen on hearing about our royalty!”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jill Heather

    This book was easily a four star review. Until the last chapter, which was beyond trite. I'm not sure what the opposite of stick the landing is, but that's what the ending did. Patricia lives two lives: a happy one in a horrible world that is like ours if everything had been a little worse and an unhappy one in a wonderful world that is like ours if everything had been a little better. But both her lives end in dementia -- very well written -- and she is not entirely sure which one is real, only This book was easily a four star review. Until the last chapter, which was beyond trite. I'm not sure what the opposite of stick the landing is, but that's what the ending did. Patricia lives two lives: a happy one in a horrible world that is like ours if everything had been a little worse and an unhappy one in a wonderful world that is like ours if everything had been a little better. But both her lives end in dementia -- very well written -- and she is not entirely sure which one is real, only that they are split based on a decision she made many years earlier. (view spoiler)[Eventually she realises that she can choose which world is real, and is amazed that one person's answer to a marriage proposal has the power to make such a difference in the world, butterfly effect kind of stuff. Could it be that the cost of peace is her own happiness? She must choose one world to die in, and that will be the real world! She could not have made any other decision about which world to choose. THE END. I appreciated both Sliding Doors and The Lady and the Tiger, but the world did not need a mashup. (hide spoiler)] The book deserved a far, far better ending.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I find it very strange that I've now read four Jo Walton books, and the one that won a Hugo is my least favourite of the four. It's not that it's bad, but it really wasn't a book that I loved. In contrast, the other three books are ones that practically have me picking my jaw up off the floor with how good they are. Tooth and Claw convinced me that I did want to read about Victorian dragons, Farthing made me shudder with the potential reality of the vision of a fascist Britain (I don't even know I find it very strange that I've now read four Jo Walton books, and the one that won a Hugo is my least favourite of the four. It's not that it's bad, but it really wasn't a book that I loved. In contrast, the other three books are ones that practically have me picking my jaw up off the floor with how good they are. Tooth and Claw convinced me that I did want to read about Victorian dragons, Farthing made me shudder with the potential reality of the vision of a fascist Britain (I don't even know if I could bear to read it today), and now My Real Children just knocked my socks off with how beautifully written and rich it is. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jemppu

    Absolutely gorgeous, crushing, and poignant portrayal of lives as they transpire. Wonderfully realized moments of life's happinesses and injustices, interlaid together in an unpredictable way to make you look twice. Got me captivated, and fall in love with Walton's authentic, compassionate voice. Beautiful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    OH. MY. GOD. WHY DID NONE OF YOU MAKE ME READ THIS BOOK SOONER??? I’ve previously read two of Jo Walton’s books. The first, Among Others , was a Hugo-nominated, Nebula-winning novel that I enjoyed but didn’t love. The second, Tooth and Claw , was a more straightforward story which was basically “what if Regency England was intelligent dragons” and, as such, was a delightfully clever romp of a book. My Real Children is a slow burn of simmering something else and it blew my mind backwards and OH. MY. GOD. WHY DID NONE OF YOU MAKE ME READ THIS BOOK SOONER??? I’ve previously read two of Jo Walton’s books. The first, Among Others , was a Hugo-nominated, Nebula-winning novel that I enjoyed but didn’t love. The second, Tooth and Claw , was a more straightforward story which was basically “what if Regency England was intelligent dragons” and, as such, was a delightfully clever romp of a book. My Real Children is a slow burn of simmering something else and it blew my mind backwards and forwards across time. It’s 2015 and Patricia is in a nursing home, suffering from dementia. Her mind alternates between two sets of memories. In one timeline, she marries a man named Mark shortly after finishing her schooling after World War II. She has four children with him and a very unhappy marriage, although along the way she discovers her own ambitions and makes a life for herself. In the other timeline, she doesn’t marry Mark; she travels to Italy, writes popular guidebooks, falls in love with another woman, and they end up raising three children together. Tragedy strikes their lives in a few ways, but they get through it, as a family. Walton’s use of a parallel universe structure isn’t unique. A very long time ago I read The Post-Birthday World , which does a similar thing, albeit in the present rather than traversing past worldlines. Walton’s use of it is quite divergent; after Patricia decides to marry or not marry Mark, her life changes rapidly. I call it a slow burn because it took me a while to understand what Walton was doing with these parallel lines and where they were going. At first I was firmly on the anti-Mark train. The guy’s a rapist jerk, and “Tricia” endures an awful first few years of marriage. In contrast, her independence as Pat, the way she develops a career and a wider social circle, definitely looks more attractive. Her love with Bea is easy, even when it gets hard later in life. And there’s the rub: pretty soon, Walton drops the other shoe. Tricia’s life turns around as she carves out more agency for herself and develops independence as well, including meaningful relationships with her adult children. Meanwhile, Pat and Bea have their shares of setbacks, from questions around powers of attorney and agency to Bea’s disability and the state of the world around them. Eventually it’s clear that neither of Patricia’s possible lives is superior to the other. It’s not a question of which life is better but an exploration of the myriad ways in which we encounter happiness and unhappiness as we go through life. This is a slow burn because it’s character-driven, heavy with narration and description of Patricia’s life and lighter on dialogue or action. It is a meditation on life. Either of Patricia’s lives alone would make for a worthy novel, but it’s their juxtaposition that enhances them into a masterpiece of storytelling. I read this over the weekend after a very draining week. I wanted something cathartic, something meditative—and My Real Children was exactly that. Sometimes, when my own life is feeling small or difficult, reading about the difficulties of other people’s lives is just what I need. I guess it’s a form of recharging my empathy and commiserating with these fictional personalities…. Anyway, there’s something about Walton’s writing, the way she tells Patricia’s stories, that really touched my emotions. I found myself laughing and crying at various junctures over the smallest of life events. As the years turned into decades, I found myself getting to know Trish and Pat intimately; I felt connected to them. As I mentioned above, both timelines have their shares of ups and downs. This is what Walton is really getting at with My Real Children: she’s reminding us that there is no way to live your life without regrets or setback. Even if you can go back and do it again, there’s no way to “win” at life. You can always have happiness, but you can also always have sadness and regret; that’s just the way it is. What really matters are the relationships you develop with the people in your life. Who do you love, and who loves you? To what lengths will you go to care for those around you when they are ailing, infirm, or upset? This past year has been somewhat tumultuous for me in terms of caring for others. During this time, I’ve become so very grateful for the support I receive from my own friends. Reading about Patricia’s lives made me think about my own friendships and the people in my life who are so important to me. Yes, my life can be difficult sometimes—but here I am, 29 years old, with a house of my own and friends who text and call me daily, a friend who watches Doctor Who with me every Sunday, friends who check up on me and tell me I’m enough. These are the things that make the darker times easier to bear. These are what add to my pile of good things (my favourite moment of Doctor Who ever). We could spend a good amount of time discussing the extent to which Patricia’s alternative lives are “real.” It’s possible that her two sets of memories are entirely a result of her dementia, of course (kind of like the doubt inherent in Woman on the Edge of Time ). Alternatively, Patricia could indeed be remembering two actual parallel lives among many others. Perhaps that’s what dementia is! And, as she observes in the coda, these memories are interesting because there were so many divergences beyond ones probably caused by her decision to marry/not marry Mark. Both worlds are distinct from this one of ours as well. This book is vanilla enough in its presentation and marketing that it might actually escape the speculative fiction ghetto in some places and attract a wider audience. I think people should give science fiction a try more in general, but if they pick up My Real Children not really knowing what it’s about, I don’t mind that either. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I think almost everyone might want to read at some point. It’s moving and heartfelt and beautiful. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year—one of those books, like some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, that are just so beautiful they hurt.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Let's start with the publisher's press release for My Real Children; "perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife and Ursula K Le Guin ...". So really, that should rule me out. I haven't read Life After Life, I hated The Time Traveller's Wife and I've never heard of Ursula K Le Guin. The press release goes on to say ... " writes science fiction and fantasy novels ....". Well, that's me out again. When anyone asks me what I like to read, I a Let's start with the publisher's press release for My Real Children; "perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife and Ursula K Le Guin ...". So really, that should rule me out. I haven't read Life After Life, I hated The Time Traveller's Wife and I've never heard of Ursula K Le Guin. The press release goes on to say ... " writes science fiction and fantasy novels ....". Well, that's me out again. When anyone asks me what I like to read, I always say anything except science fiction and fantasy. So why did I read this book? First; I love the cover, second; the blurb is fascinating, and third; I didn't read the full press release before I started the book. I'm glad that I didn't because I absolutely adored this book. It's fabulous, I love it, and now I want to read everything else that Jo Walton has written. For me, this is a story that is unique and original and beautiful. It's intriguing and it's confusing, yet it is filled with emotion and passion and characters who are forward-thinking and beyond the norm, yet are realistically portrayed. The opening chapter finds Patricia Cowan in a nursing home, she's old and confused, some days she is very confused. The rest of the book is made up of Patricia's memories, yet her memories are not of one life and one set of children, but of two women, Trish and Pat, with two lives and two sets of children. Trish and Pat tell their own individual, very different stories in alternate chapters and this starts after Patricia makes the biggest decision of her life. That really is the crux of this story; how one decision, one answer, can shape a whole lifetime, and the lives of those who come next. How generations of one family can be formed because of what one single person decided to do. Who is Patricia? Is she Trish, or is she Pat? Was she married with a family, a supply teacher and homemaker, or was she a bohemian travel writer, fighting for her rights and determined to live her life as she wants to? Both of these women have a wonderfully intricate story to tell and Jo Walton has so cleverly created two hugely different lives. Yes, there is a dash of science fiction and fantasy in there, but it's not aliens and spaceships (although a trip to the Moon does feature), this is more Orwellian than that with glimpses of a possible future, and of things that could have happened, but didn't. It all sounds terribly confusing doesn't it? It really isn't, it's a portrait of a woman who made a decision, but it is also a portrait of that woman making the opposite decision. Jo Walton writes with subtlety and passion. She challenges the reader, she makes the reader think about the consequences of decisions made, she poses questions, she tackles age-old issues. She does all of this quite beautifully. If this is science-fiction/fantasy, then I'm converted.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Ah, time-travel and the multiverse! What would our lives be like if we hadn't made that one pivotal decision (repeat ad nauseam)? It seems like there have been several books about this in the last year, with Life After Life getting the most hype. Since Jo Walton writes such clever science fiction/fantasy novels, I thought this might be great - but unfortunately, it ends up being far more mundane than interesting. The writing bumps it up to three stars, but other than that, it's very skippable. Th Ah, time-travel and the multiverse! What would our lives be like if we hadn't made that one pivotal decision (repeat ad nauseam)? It seems like there have been several books about this in the last year, with Life After Life getting the most hype. Since Jo Walton writes such clever science fiction/fantasy novels, I thought this might be great - but unfortunately, it ends up being far more mundane than interesting. The writing bumps it up to three stars, but other than that, it's very skippable. The two parallel stories that make up this book cover almost a century and are tied up in just 320 pages, which makes it difficult to really get to know Trish and Pat, the two alternate versions of Patricia. (The name conceit was very artfully done and much appreciated.) My main complaint about Life After Life was that the various versions of Ursula weren’t very similar to one another; it wasn’t interesting to play a huge version of “what if?” when the endgames were so very different. Here, Trish and Pat can be recognized in one another, at least, but I wasn’t convinced that the differences between them were meaningful or interesting. I think I would have enjoyed this more if the style hadn’t been so linear. The story begins with older Patricia, who isn’t sure if she is Pat or Trish - if she has three children or four - and then immediately jumps back to the beginning of Patricia’s life. This is my bias showing through, but I would have loved to see Patricia remembering these stories in the present, like Polly does in Fire and Hemlock. It would have grounded us more in the reason Patricia's remembering the stories, and perhaps given some more context to the ending. And the ending! Actually, I'm not sure it could have been saved: it was so banal. (view spoiler)[The only thing that Jo Walton could come up with was that Patricia’s choice about Mark had made all the difference, and she has to choose which world to die in? Come on now. That came out of NOWHERE. (hide spoiler)] Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the (view spoiler)[threesomes. That's all I really have to say about that ... (hide spoiler)] Anyway, I’m not convinced that I’ve read a truly great literary fiction novel that deals with multiple lives in a believable and interesting way. It seems they’re in vogue now, though, so there’s always hope for the future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    Enjoyed this - it reminded me of Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, although the scope is smaller. It begins with Patricia Cowen as an elderly, confused woman in a nursing home who has memories of living two very different lives. Her timeline split when she made the critical decision to marry - or not marry - her college boyfriend. One choice led to a life of misery and repression; the other led to a life of love and adventure. For a while I was irritated by the stark contrast between her two Enjoyed this - it reminded me of Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, although the scope is smaller. It begins with Patricia Cowen as an elderly, confused woman in a nursing home who has memories of living two very different lives. Her timeline split when she made the critical decision to marry - or not marry - her college boyfriend. One choice led to a life of misery and repression; the other led to a life of love and adventure. For a while I was irritated by the stark contrast between her two timelines, which are almost caricatures of two lifestyle choices. Then I was puzzled as to why the author chose to radically alter the history of the world in both timelines. In the very last chapter the point of this is made clear, although it doesn’t completely work for me because there is no reasonable explanation, other than the “butterfly flapping its wings” conceit, for why Patricia’s choice would cause such massive changes in the world. But even though it didn’t make sense, I liked (view spoiler)[the idea that she could choose happiness for herself in a world plagued by violence, or accept personal misery in exchange for a world at peace (hide spoiler)] . The writing is weak in the beginning, especially at the point where Patricia makes her fateful decision. Then the details of two entire lifetimes are spilled out in a 300-page novel, which means there is a fair amount of summary and exposition and the secondary characters are not well fleshed-out. I liked the concept very much, though, and for the most part I like Walton’s writing, even if her plot choices don’t always suit me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    First Second Books

    Patricia remembers living two lives – with two different sets of children, two different ways that the world could have gone. And it doesn’t just seem to be because she’s old and living in an assisted living facility – on different days, she gets visits from children who don’t exist on the other days. Both of her lives went very differently, but Patricia is a wonderful character in both of them – and a fascinating (and different in both iterations) window into ways that the last century could hav Patricia remembers living two lives – with two different sets of children, two different ways that the world could have gone. And it doesn’t just seem to be because she’s old and living in an assisted living facility – on different days, she gets visits from children who don’t exist on the other days. Both of her lives went very differently, but Patricia is a wonderful character in both of them – and a fascinating (and different in both iterations) window into ways that the last century could have gone. This book is really amazing, you guys. It reminded me of Kate Atkinson’s LIFE AFTER LIFE, but with the idea of the multiple-lives problematized – if you actually had agency in that kind of situation, and you had to make a choice, do you choose the world where you’re happier? Or the world where life is better for everyone?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I loved almost everything about this book. The deft imagining of two parallel timelines of the twentieth century, both different from our own, the vivid depictions of every character in both timelines, the ways in which Pat/Trish is different and the same. I basically read the whole book cover to cover yesterday. I had other things to do, but I couldn't put it down. I read the last several chapters with tears pouring down my face. I think it would have been a five s Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I loved almost everything about this book. The deft imagining of two parallel timelines of the twentieth century, both different from our own, the vivid depictions of every character in both timelines, the ways in which Pat/Trish is different and the same. I basically read the whole book cover to cover yesterday. I had other things to do, but I couldn't put it down. I read the last several chapters with tears pouring down my face. I think it would have been a five star book for me except (view spoiler)[for the last line. I've read reviews that interpreted it differently than I did, and maybe it's meant to be a personal rorshach for the reader as well as for Pat/Trish. But the fact that she thought she had to choose at all upset me. (hide spoiler)] There are other books and movies that have trod this path - I'm particularly thinking of the underrated film Mr. Nobody - but the way this came together, and the particulars of both lives, touched me deeply.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amal El-Mohtar

    Reviewing this one for NPR. Very beautifully done but left me so sad. Review is here: http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/3121907... Reviewing this one for NPR. Very beautifully done but left me so sad. Review is here: http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/3121907...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carly Thompson

    Quick read in the alternate history read that is light on the alternate history angle. Walton plays with the alternate history genre but offering not just one but two alternate histories both versions of the same woman's life. Patricia Cowan is suffering from dementia in 2015. In her nursing home, she has memories of herself in two different past lives. Her early childhood and adulthood are the same, but a fateful decision in 1949 of whether to marry her boyfriend or not leads her down two diver Quick read in the alternate history read that is light on the alternate history angle. Walton plays with the alternate history genre but offering not just one but two alternate histories both versions of the same woman's life. Patricia Cowan is suffering from dementia in 2015. In her nursing home, she has memories of herself in two different past lives. Her early childhood and adulthood are the same, but a fateful decision in 1949 of whether to marry her boyfriend or not leads her down two diverging paths. In one reality she marries Mark, has a difficult loveless marriage as a repressed housewife before finally divorcing and achieving some self-actualization in the 1970s. In this world, Tricia never really has a deep love or happy home life although her children provide some bright spots. The world gradually becomes more peaceful and socialistic. In the other reality, she (called Pat here) does not marry Mark but visits Italy and becomes a travel writer. She later falls in love with a woman and has a happy home life with three children. In this world, there is much more world strife with frequent nuclear attacks and disease. Walton moves forward in the time and in the lives of Pat and Tricia in short chapters that encompass numerous characters. Some things are similar in both worlds--Pat/Tricia is a teacher, she has a son who is a musician, her mother dies of dementia, and she herself also slowly succumbs to dementia. I have enjoyed Walton's other alternate histories but found this one severely lacking. It was hard to get to known the personalities of Pat/Tricia's numerous children and their spouses; often major life changes were summed up in one paragraph. I found the characters of Pat and her wife, Bee, to be smug and their declarations of love and musings on their wonderful family and how lucky they were to be annoying rather than touching. It was funny how casually Tricia's son, George, would jet off to the moon for his research work. The sex scenes with Pat, Bee and the biological father of their children, Michael, were cringe worthy. A lot of the alternate history was lightly mentioned and the main focus was the personal life of the main character which is only somewhat affected by alternate world events. Readers who like alternate history may not find enough alternate events or the exploration of how the events effect the characters to enjoy this. Readers who like domestic drama or women's fiction with a slight twist might enjoy this more but there are too many characters and the alternate history (especially the moon stuff) comes off as silly or could confuse readers who didn't know that it was an alternate history before they started reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    "Trish’s world was so much better than Pat’s. Trish’s world was peaceful. Eastern and Western Europe had open frontiers. There had been no nuclear bombs dropped after Hiroshima, no clusters of thyroid cancer. There had been very little terrorism. The world had become quietly socialist, quietly less racist, less homophobic. In Pat’s world it had all gone the other way." These are the worlds in which Patricia Anne Cowan is still living. At one moment in her life she made one choice - out of two "Trish’s world was so much better than Pat’s. Trish’s world was peaceful. Eastern and Western Europe had open frontiers. There had been no nuclear bombs dropped after Hiroshima, no clusters of thyroid cancer. There had been very little terrorism. The world had become quietly socialist, quietly less racist, less homophobic. In Pat’s world it had all gone the other way." These are the worlds in which Patricia Anne Cowan is still living. At one moment in her life she made one choice - out of two possible - and at the same time the other... The sci-fi part resides in the fact that the story is set in an alternate history, presenting two worlds in which Kennedy lived / died in an explosion, Alan Turing did not committ suicide, nuclear bombs were daily news and a moon base was established. Other than that, it's the story of a normal woman during her 89 years of life. It is a sad, heart-breaking, powerful, brilliant biography, covering the entire range of emotions and it's impossible for the reader not to find itself in one of those situations. A life so full, no matter the choice made. A yin/yang life. A lonely one in which there is peace and the other full of love but also full of wars. Which one will you choose?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sue Davis

    I decided to read MY REAL CHILDREN when I read that it was a parallel lives, parallel worlds story. It was a fast read a mildly interesting storyline but it is simplistic, religious, sappy, and written in a style appropriate for 6th graders. I recommend THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST and LIFE AFTER LIFE--not this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This is lovely! It has the same concept as the movie 'Sliding Doors' with Pat and Trisha (yes, it is the same person, kinda) aging from seven to near eighty. Oh, and I cried buckets and stayed up far too late. Sometimes I felt that the prose was rushing, it began sounding list-like, but overall very satisfying.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I enjoyed this even more the second time around. Possibly because it was much less confusing :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    As a long-time employee of a public library, there are always going to be things that patrons do or fret about that puzzle me (if the row you're perusing ends on the bottom shelf, it carries on on the top shelf to your right; why does this perplex some folks so badly?), but for the most part I'm willing to keep my bemusement to myself - or, you know, mention it & complain about it mildly on the internet. But there is one thing that people do that annoys me so much I will shout about it from the As a long-time employee of a public library, there are always going to be things that patrons do or fret about that puzzle me (if the row you're perusing ends on the bottom shelf, it carries on on the top shelf to your right; why does this perplex some folks so badly?), but for the most part I'm willing to keep my bemusement to myself - or, you know, mention it & complain about it mildly on the internet. But there is one thing that people do that annoys me so much I will shout about it from the hilltops: do not write in your library books! BRAVO to the person who decided they were such a hot-shot editor they needed to write several proofreader’s marks in the margins of the copy of this that I checked out, making sure that everyone knew of, say, their need to remove the word “that” from this passage: “’Somebody to go in and see that she’s eating . . . ‘” or their dislike of the word "Bovril," yet missing entirely the legitimate revision needed here: “’They will, however, will serve adequately . . . ‘” If you believe yourself smug enough to highlight what you feel (incorrectly) are errors in a published library book, for pete's sake, try not to miss the actual mistakes because it makes you look worse than the person who simply writes in a library book. Anyway, I took this home when it first came out, didn't read it because I had a million other books waiting & I didn't care for Among Others all that much, then picked it back up because of Becker's recommendation the other day because she knows how much I adored Life After Life and she felt like this was a pretty nice companion to that theme. Although I didn't love it nearly as much as I loved that book, it did ease some of the nostalgia I still feel about Ursula and who knows, maybe it'll make it easier for me to finally get to A God in Ruins since I'm kind of afraid to read that. Who is Patty? Is she Trish, who has a terrible personal life in a peaceful world with socialized medicine & legalized pot? Or is she Pat, who has a wonderful personal life in a world ravaged by nuclear fallout & constant terrorism? The dichotomy hinges on one choice that Patty makes during her formative years. Because this is a short book, her various lives have a condensed feel to them. A lot of momentous things happen to each iteration in a few hundred pages, but for the most part, Walton made me feel appropriately deep feelings for Pat, at least, and her partners in each life, even though her children & friends & various hangers-on aren't too fleshed out; for instance, one important person dies of AIDS & although this was supposed to be a highly emotional situation, I felt kind of meh about it. The ending is nothing to write home about either, as it seems like Walton didn't quite know where to go with it, so she did the slow fade hoping that this would suffice. It doesn't, not quite, but I don't know where else Trish/Pat could have been taken, so I'll just let my happy memories of one of the worlds she envisions, where gay marriage is legal & the death penalty has been abolished, carry me on to my next book - which hopefully has not been written in.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melliane

    Mon avis en Français My English review When I saw the theme of the story I admit that I was very intrigued. How could a heroine remember two different lives at the same time? Which one is real? We thus begin the story by discovering Patricia today, a woman who is in a nursing home and can read every day the notes from the doctors saying if she is confused or not. But whatever she might read there, Patricia remembers two different lives, two lives that gave her different children and have seen var Mon avis en Français My English review When I saw the theme of the story I admit that I was very intrigued. How could a heroine remember two different lives at the same time? Which one is real? We thus begin the story by discovering Patricia today, a woman who is in a nursing home and can read every day the notes from the doctors saying if she is confused or not. But whatever she might read there, Patricia remembers two different lives, two lives that gave her different children and have seen various world events. Thus we follow Patricia’s life or, at least, two lives since her childhood. Both correlate fairly well until she enters in college and meets with Mark … Ah Mark, a man and a big change in her life. It is here that her lives diverge, with an unhappy marriage, or a life with a young woman she meets while traveling. I admit that I was surprised by two diametrically opposed stories. Thus, we discover her joys, sorrows, challenges, her children, and her whole life until her mental deterioration. I was quite hooked by the story with the first chapter but it’s true that the backward with the Patricia childhood changed that. It must be said that the religion became a central theme to the story and it’s not necessarily what is the most appealing to me. I always have a little trouble when religion becomes a bit too present and it is true that it put me a little behind. After that, it’s true that the story is not really action packed but it was interesting to see Patricia evolve, to see the different facets she could have, to discover how her children would grow up and become adults. It was also very moving to see the relationship of our heroine with her children, her love and devotion whatever happens. It was an interesting read, different from what we can usually find. I didn’t really get into the story, but I still had a good time with the whole. It was touching to see Patricia evolve, and changing with the trials in her life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This is a book about Patricia who suffers from dementia. She has problems remembering what has really happened in her life - what is real and what is not? I must admit that I was a little disappointed when I realized that this was a book about two possible outcomes of one life. I had picked it up because I thought it would be about Patricia in present time and her dementia. That being said, I was quickly entrigued by the surprises that Jo Walton presents to us during the story, and I fell in lov This is a book about Patricia who suffers from dementia. She has problems remembering what has really happened in her life - what is real and what is not? I must admit that I was a little disappointed when I realized that this was a book about two possible outcomes of one life. I had picked it up because I thought it would be about Patricia in present time and her dementia. That being said, I was quickly entrigued by the surprises that Jo Walton presents to us during the story, and I fell in love with some of the characters - and I despised other characters (one in particular, you know who I'm talking about ;-) ). There are a lot of characters in this novel, though, and I had a hard time remembering all of them and their specific personalities. I gradually decided to just focus on the characters I remembered, and the others were read about superficially. This is an interesting story which made me long for Italy (even though I've never been there), which made me reflect about life and which made me nostalgic about my own university days. The book has its peak moments, but it also has its share of dull moments that were quickly read and quickly forgotten. The book left an impression on me, but at the same time it didn't. The writing style was a bit too rushed for my taste, but all in all this was an enjoyable - however disappointing - read :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    LillyBooks

    I thought, from things I read about this book and even from the cover flap of this book, that it was going to be science fiction, a sort of mystery or at least a quandary about which past is true. But it's not really science fiction at all, except maybe in the most generous use of that term. Basically, it's a retelling of Sliding Doors. It takes place in a different time period and for a longer span of time, but it's still Sliding Doors. Sliding Doors is probably better, actually, because it was I thought, from things I read about this book and even from the cover flap of this book, that it was going to be science fiction, a sort of mystery or at least a quandary about which past is true. But it's not really science fiction at all, except maybe in the most generous use of that term. Basically, it's a retelling of Sliding Doors. It takes place in a different time period and for a longer span of time, but it's still Sliding Doors. Sliding Doors is probably better, actually, because it was more focused and thus had more urgency. Because the there are almost two complete lives crammed into what is basically a short book, it reads as an outline of a longer book: Bob got two A levels, Susie got a new boyfriend, Sally turned ten. There are literally sentences like that. Yawn. As a result, I found I really didn't care or connect with any of the characters, even the two (or one?) main characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    Patricia is old, and has been progressively forgetting more and more. She expected to face dementia like her mother did, but she didn't expect to find herself half-remembering two different lives: one in which she married a schoolmate, another in which she became a travel author. Not only does she have two different personal lives, but the worlds diverged as well--in one, nuclear warfare is an intermittent danger, while in another the world is largely at peace and civil rights have made great st Patricia is old, and has been progressively forgetting more and more. She expected to face dementia like her mother did, but she didn't expect to find herself half-remembering two different lives: one in which she married a schoolmate, another in which she became a travel author. Not only does she have two different personal lives, but the worlds diverged as well--in one, nuclear warfare is an intermittent danger, while in another the world is largely at peace and civil rights have made great strides. Can she choose to stay in one world, and in so doing make it reality for everyone else? Much of this is well written, but I felt that Patricia's lives go by too quickly. The last few decades of her life whiz by, and although that may be how it felt, it did mean that the impact of events (a grandchild dying, a cure for AIDS, being committed to a home) was a bit lost.

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