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Jo Walton 

When: Tue., June 10, 7 p.m. 2014
Jo Walton's last novel, the heart-breakingly brilliant Among Others, won just about every award available to fantasy writers. Her followup, My Real Children, is an appealing blend of historical fiction, domestic realism, and science fiction. It tells the tale(s) of Patricia Cowan, a woman born in 1933 and educated at Oxford after the war, who faces a pivotal turning point when a young man she barely knows asks for her hand in marriage. Here, the novel splits into two timelines: One in which Patricia marries the man, and one in which she doesn't. In alternating chapters, Walton tracks two different versions of Patricia's life, unfolding in two very different worlds—one peaceful, one marked by global strife and nuclear fallout. By the end of the novel, Walton is juggling so many characters in both timelines that certain narrative resolutions can feel a bit rushed—but overall, the density of characters and family connections adds to the emotional impact of Patricia's story, which begins and ends alone in a hospital room. (A running theme in the book, alongside Italy, lesbianism, feminism, and family: How we care for people at the end of their lives.) Among Others is still the place to start if you've never read Walton, but My Real Children is a satisfying, profoundly smart offering. (And yes, I cried.) ALISON HALLETT

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