My Real Children

Patricia Cowan is very old, and, according to her medical charts, very confused. As she lies in her nursing home, uncertain of the day or the week or even the year, she recalls distinctly two lives: one in which she married her college boyfriend and had four children, and one in which she never married and raised three children with a woman named Bee instead. She remembers a world torn apart by nuclear warfare, and a world at peace. She remembers a wedding on the moon; she remembers Russia, the U.S. and Europe fighting over proprietary space technology.

My Real Children is an exploration of both of Patricia Cowan's lives, or rather, an exploration of what happens when one life splits in two possible but completely distinct versions. Jo Walton (Among Others) uses the two lives of Patricia Cowan to explore the consequences of decision-making: What would have happened had you chosen another option? Though it can feel heavy-handed at times, Walton's exploration of not only the what-ifs but the what-could-have-beens is brought to life by the multilayered lives of Patricia Cowan, whose experiences as a woman, a mother and a partner are at once incredibly different and yet strikingly similar. Both lives unfold at a rapid pace, but the nuance of the characters, family dynamics and political situations in each keep the two story lines distinct--at least until Patricia's own memories collapse into one, leaving readers and Patricia to ponder the question: What if? --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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