Have you ever had that feeling that you might have lived a totally different life in a parallel universe or if you’d made a different choice in what you later look back and see as a life-changing moment?
Jo Walton’s latest novel My Real Children examines that choice in the life of Patricia Cowan. Looking back on her life, Patricia can recall two potential lifetimes, both of which hinge on whether or not she accepts the ultimatum to marry her fiance Mark.
In one reality, the two plan a hasty wedding and settle into a less than ideal marriage that produced four children and multiple miscarriages. In the other, she meets Bee and the two fall in love and raise a family in the less traditional sense.
Part alternate history and part character examination, My Real Children is one of the more fascinating and compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Jo Walton weaves together two separate timelines for Patricia, allowing each to have its own successes and failures but never endorsing one timeline, life or lifetime as better than the other. There are moments of triumph in each one and moments of despair in each one.
Alternating chapters tell of Pat and Tricia’s life over the course of several years in each timeline. One of the more fascinating elements of the story is the creation of alternate histories for each timeline, which show just how easily history could have gone in our timeline.
Walton has a great deal of affection for her characters and it shows as we get to know each of these characters. Some of them you’ll love (at times) and some of them you’ll hate (at times). But you’ll never quite be able to put them aside easily or forget them long after the last page is turned.
My Real Children shows there is more to the fantasy genre than just sword-play and dragons. I’ve heard good things about Walton before and this novel only makes me curious to pick up her other novels and see if they’re as absorbing as this one was.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via GoodReads.