Book Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

“She felt her strong young body that she had never appreciated when she had it, constantly worrying that she didn’t meet standards of beauty and not understanding how standards of health were so much more important.”

― Jo Walton, My Real Children

Patricia Cowan is 89 years old and she’s very confused. Living at a rest home, she seems to remember two very different lives. From the people she met, the children she bore, the places she’s been she remembers each detail but she’s very confused as to which life did she really lead.

Nominated for this year’s(2015) World Fantasy Awards, I was excited to read My Real Children. I have to admit I have expectations but they were minimal and I did read this book with an open mind. The book starts off with Patricia Cowan staying in what it seems like a nursing home for old people. She is 89 years old and for some odd reason she’s remembering having led two different lives. Then the book goes into her early years starting when she’s 7 years old. We follow her story year after year, it then came to a point where she’s presented with 2 options. Both of which would have tremendous impact to her life.

The book is split from then onward telling the events of what happened to both choices. To give the author credit, creating a two different stories into one book, both stories were written extremely well. The attention to detail on both stories were impressive and both felt complete. Both stories have their own share of ups and downs and you do feel these ups and downs. As a chapter might end on a good note, the next might not. It felt like riding two different emotional roller-coasters.

Unfortunately the book is not engaging as it sounds as there is no big conflict. The story is limited to what Patty or Trisha is doing on a day to day basis. It’s almost like she’s just being followed around by a camera crew and we watch or in this case read what she’s doing for the day. This results to boring chapters where it is hard to read on forward. Not to mention the split comes out of nowhere and left me confused as to what was happening. I did get used to it after I read on, though I wish there had been more clarity behind it.

My huge complaint however is the large amount characters, since the book is split into two Patricia meets different people on each story and she met a lot. Not to mention she’s got kids on both stories and they all have different names at a point where it’s difficult to establish who is who making it difficult to care for them. Now each character has his/her own set of problems and go through different trials and you do feel bad whenever a tragedy occurs however being unclear of who is who and what is what the emotional effect has very little impact.

Overall, I thought the book was good, each story goes through realistic presentations of life, from wars, religion, sexuality, loss, hardships etc, it is admirable for what it’s trying to achieve. Unfortunately it didn’t connect with me emotionally but with a good concept and a satisfying ending it does deserve the nomination it got.

Rating: 3/5

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