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My Real Children
by Jo Walton
Tor; $25.99; 317pp
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
This is a simple tale, really.

An English woman tells her life story. From two different places: if she had married Mark and if she had told him no.

So we get Pat or Trisha/Trish’s life told from the perspective of looking back.

And I really, really enjoyed it and it made me cry at the end.

Both versions of Pat/Trish’s life have their wonderful positives and depressing negatives. In the life where she achieves romantic and sexual satisfaction---the world is rocked by several nuclear exchanges. In one life we not only get to the moon and establish bases but go to Mars and do the same thing. In the other life---we get to the moon but it is simply a base bristling with armaments. History is different in each life and what Walton chooses to change in the telling is fascinating.

And of course, Pat/Trish has children: one life full of miscarriages, stillborns and live births and the other babies from a charming ménage a trois. One life Pat is married and marriage and sex are dull, empty, miserable affairs. And in the other life she is lesbian and she and her partner choose to be inseminated by the same easy going fellow so their children will be actually related.

More than anything, this book brought home to me the horrors of old age: especially because Pat/Trish suffers memory loss in both. Throughout, as she approaches old age she wails she doesn’t want to end up like her mother; fearful of people, forgetful and cut off from the real world by dementia. She doesn’t want to give up her “normal” life and sell her home and give up her day-to-day routine and the things she enjoys to be confined in the generic pleasantness of a nursing home.

It was, for me, a terrifying view of the march of time.

But this is a wonderful approach to laying out what a woman’s life should/could be: a life led the way society regarded as “normal” (and how Pat still became a real person though shouldering through a loveless godawful grind of a conventional marriage) and a life where Trish chose how to live and whom to love and the consequences of both.

A terrific, heartfelt novel. ~~ Sue Martin

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