Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Description from Goodreads
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.

My Review
My Real Children is a story about a woman split between two worlds- the world she lives in where she marries Mark and goes by Trish, and has four children, and the world where she doesn't marry Mark, but instead raises three children with her partner, Bee. 

But not just that- in the world with Mark, Kennedy is blown up by a bomb in Texas, we have settlements on the moon, and potentially will have settlements on Mars. In the world with Bee, Kennedy resigns following nuclear crisis, the world is uneasy, bombs are set off on train stations that cause lifelong heartache for Pat (as she goes by), but she spends years writing guidebooks and summering in Italy. 

In her life with Mark, she spends a majority of her life miserable, but in her life with Bee, she is happy and content. But the world isn't. 
So the real question this book got me thinking of- how do your decisions effect your own life, and how do they effect the entire world? 

It's like the butterfly effect- you do one thing, and it changes everything. And by deciding to marry Mark, or not marry Mark, it literally has changed the world. 

The book spends the first five chapters leading up to her proposal from Mark and after spends the rest of the book, other than the final chapter, going back and forth between her life with Mark, and her life with Bee. Trish is clearly miserable with Mark, and she only gives him children initially because Mark has her convinced it's her duty to God to populate. They sleep together as husband and wife what appears to be a little more than a handful of times throughout their marriage, but she has four children (and three miscarriages / stillbirths) that she raises and cares for deeply. The world has war, but nothing unlike our world now. Her oldest son becomes a semi-popular musician, her other son marries on the moon, one daughter eventually settles down after having a daughter young, and the other is also successful in her field. Her mother develops dementia, and, eventually, Trish begins to lose her memory after a heart attack. 
Pat has a wonderful life, traveling, writing, and raising three children with her partner, Bee. But the world itself is a mess- nuclear war, bombings... it's a disaster. Bee is majorly effected by a bombing in a train station. One of her daughters becomes an architect in Italy, her son is a composer, and her other daughter marries as well. Her mother also develops dementia and Pat also begins to lose her memory after a heart attack.
So there are many similarities in her life, but also many differences. 

So who are her real children, and what is her real life? Did she have a mostly happy life with Bee, or a miserable but serviceable one with Mark? Are her miscarriages/stillbirths her made-up memories of a life with Bee, or did she marry Bee but somewhere in her mind, does she wonder what would have happened had she married him?

The final chapter of this book did cause me to pause a moment, and reflect on my own life- how do the decisions I make in my life make the world a different place? Maybe a better or worse place, or does it do anything at all? 
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of this book, you can purchase a copy for Kindle here, or a hardcover copy here. Or you can borrow a copy from your local library, like I did!

FTC: I borrowed this book from my local library. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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