Monday, December 12, 2016

MY REAL CHILDREN





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My Real Children, Jo Walton, Tor Books, 2014, 320 pp


The election happened. I could not read fiction. I had a review deadline for The Terranauts and was almost through reading that so I got professional (more than I can say for some politicians I will not name) and finished it. I had the next book on my reading plan for the week sitting there but I just couldn't start it. 

One of the little known blessings of e-readers is that I have almost a library of unread books there that I forget I own. Like a recovering invalid, I flipped through all those titles and Jo Walton called out to me. Better yet, she rescued me.

When the story opens, Patricia is in one of the upper tiers of a senior facility. She surreptitiously checks the notes clipped to the end of her bed, where nurses list actions taken, medications given, and evaluations: "confused today" "very confused." Patricia's memory is slipping away but when she remembers to check the notes she can also find out the date.

Patricia is the most confused about her children. "Sometimes she knew with solid certainty that she had four children, and five more stillbirths: nine times giving birth in floods of blood and pain, and of those, four surviving. At other times she knows equally well that she had two children, both born by caesarean section late in her life after she had given up hope. Two children of her body, and another, a stepchild, dearest of them all."

In her reality, all of these children visit her. Very confused she is!

My Real Children is one of those stories of alternate lives a person could have; like Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or Making It Up by Penelope Lively. All of these books feature women whose lives are matters of chance, as are everyone's, but with the added, or should I say, lessened chances that women have. 

Love, sex, marriage, childbearing and child raising all dependent on sufficient or not enough knowledge, opportunity, support, and freedom.

How many times have I thought, what if I had not made that choice (of husband, job, religious affiliation, school, move, pregnancy, separation, etc.) 

I loved Patricia in all her variations and I loved the way Jo Walton constructed her novel. I am not one who goes in for "comfort fiction." This is not that but I did feel comforted and it was what I needed the day I read it. 


(My Real Children is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.) 

11 comments:

  1. This sounds really interesting. Adding it to my list.

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    1. Finger slipped. I meant excellent.

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  2. Yeah the election stopped my reading too for awhile. I'm glad this one rescued you. If only we knew now what we do about our lives, then some of our choices would have been different, at least for me.

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    1. If only...but this novel made me think both that it doesn't matter too much about the choices made while reminding me that I still have choices everyday. Like I am not trapped by my past even though I have to live with what I've done.

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  3. Sounds good. I'm glad your mojo is back. ;-)

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    1. Thanks. Now, how about yours?

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    2. Getting there. I'm finally sticking with a thriller and I'm at the 61% mark. I've sampled probably as many books as I've read this year. My brain has gotten me nowhere. Luckily, I have seen a good amount of this year's films that make for interesting stats. I'll publish my yearly stats after I post about the book I'm about to finish.

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    3. That is good news Carmen! Looking forward to your review of the thriller and your movie stats!

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  4. Sounds interesting :) Happy to hear you like it!

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