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My Real Children

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  5,621 ratings  ·  1,140 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nataliya by: Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Shelves: 2014-reads
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
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
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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?
B Schrodinger
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Aug 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
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 ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, mainstream
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
Jill Heather
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Megan Baxter
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kara Babcock

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
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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.

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
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
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Amal El-Mohtar
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Reviewing this one for NPR. Very beautifully done but left me so sad.

Review is here:
Carly Thompson
Jul 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
"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
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.
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this even more the second time around. Possibly because it was much less confusing :)
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Helene Jeppesen
Oct 22, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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 ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, owned
ETA: I think it's currently on sale as an ebook. If you haven't read it, maybe check it out? It turned out to be one of my top 5 books of 2015, and I still think about it (and have feelings about it) regularly.

It's a terrible cliche, but this book made me laugh out loud - and then I cried for the last 30 or so pages, the whole time. The concept was great, and I loved the scope (I've always loved those sprawling books that chronicle whole lives). There were some tiny bits in the beginning where i
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What's the Name o...: My Real Children by Jo Walton [s] 4 39 Dec 05, 2014 05:07PM  

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Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

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