My Real Children by Jo Walton


This book hurt my heart in all the good ways and all the bad ways. It drew me in and horrified me, delighted me and broke my heart. Patricia Cowan has dementia, lives in a nursing home, and can remember living two very different lives. In one of them she married her college boyfriend when he made her choose now or never, and in the other she didn't. After that simple choice, though, her lives diverge drastically, as does the political state of the world around her. This book isn't your usual alternate history, and it's not a heavily plot-driven book. Instead it's more of a character study than it is anything else -- but such a compelling, careful, complicated one that I couldn't put the book down.

One other thing that was never mentioned to me when this book was recommended to me was just how amazingly, wonderfully queer it is. Patricia is bisexual, though that identity manifests in different ways in each of her lives, and in neither of her lives is she the only queer person she ever comes into contact with. I won't spoil some of the wonderful reveals that this book has to offer, but I will tell you that this book puts queer people in historical context, lets them live, and shows how they existed in a society that didn't accept them or want them. It shows them living, not just suffering, despite everything. This isn't the driving force of the book, it's much more personal than that, but it is there, and I'm grateful for it. We need more books that have queer people in them like it's the normal course of things; like we belong in every day life. I actually love the fact that this book isn't blatantly queer in its marketing.

Be forewarned though, that this covers nearly Patricia's entire life, and every life, no matter how filled with joy, will have its tragedies. I did say that this book broke my heart, and I didn't mean just once.

In any case, if you can't tell, I loved this book. I devoured it whole, and can't stop thinking about it. If a queer alternate history character study that spans a person's entire life sounds like something you'd be interested in, you should absolutely check it out.

5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.