My Real Children by Jo Walton

 

Science FictionMy Real Children by Jo WaltonMark – My plans have changed, Patricia. We have to get married now or never.

Trisha – Now!

Pat – Never!

Now, sixty years later, Patricia is in an extended care home with dementia. Does she have three children or four? Did she spend her summers in Italy or was she a beaten down homemaker? Is there an international moon base studying science or a Russian one with nuclear missiles pointed at its enemies? Did she serve on city council or was she devastated when her partner was injured?

Patricia was born in the late 1920’s. Her father died while she was young. Her mother was able to make ends meet, but didn’t bring joy to life like her father had. Her brother, her mother’s favorite, died in World War II. She was able to go to university, attending Oxford, She joined the Christian Union but broke with them after witnessing injustice. Then she met Mark as she was finishing her degree. He decreed they would be married after he finished his in a couple years. In the meantime, she would be far away in Cornwall teaching at a girls’ school, saving money for their marriage. But Mark didn’t get the degree he wanted so was finished sooner than expected. He accepted a job up north and gave Patricia the ultimatum.

All those memories stay constant for Patricia. After that is when they diverge. She remembers marrying Mark and having his children. She remembers their life, the bad and the good. This life is harder for her personally but the world is a better place. She also remembers spending her saved wedding money on a trip to Florence, instead. Eventually she meets someone else and settles down to a very happy life but the world is a more dangerous place – the nuclear threat becomes real in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Jo Walton examines the consequences of choices in My Real Children. Patricia is a product of her times – a woman is expected to marry and bow to the husband’s rule. Both choices she could make have after effects. Although the world politics are not due to Patricia’s choice, they are a major part of the story Walton weaves. Both worlds have drawbacks. At the end, which is better? Is it the world where Patricia is happier but the world is covered in radiation? Or is it the one where life is more difficult but has a better future for her children?

My Real Children looks at the world’s social problems. Walton shows her liberal political philosophy in the way the two worlds are pictured. Homosexuality is a major theme in My Real Children. In the “better world” it is legalized along with many other social issues. In the “nuclear world” human rights and choices are trampled on – it is an age of constant terrorism and fear.

The two life stories are intertwined in an entrancing manner. Patricia’s lives feel real in both of these alternative universes. Walton focuses on her characters. The world view is only the backdrop to their lives – although the reader often gets hit in the face with the issues.

How does Patricia resolve these two timelines at the end of her life? That’s all part of Walton’s intriguing My Real Children.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Suggestive dialogue or situations

More books by Jo Walton

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