Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Review of Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper (March 1, 2016)

About Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

The author of the critically admired, award-winning A Replacement Life turns to a different kind of story—an evocative, nuanced portrait of marriage and family, a woman reckoning with what she’s given up to make both work, and the universal question of how we reconcile who we are and whom the world wants us to be.

Maya Shulman and Alex Rubin met in 1992 when she was a Ukrainian exchange student with “a devil in [her] head” about becoming a chef instead of a medical worker, and he the coddled son of Russian immigrants wanting to toe the water of a less predictable life.
Twenty years later, Maya Rubin is a medical worker in suburban New Jersey, and Alex his father’s second in the family business. The great dislocation of their lives is their eight-year-old son Max—adopted from two teenagers in Montana despite Alex’s view that “adopted children are second-class.”

At once a salvation and a mystery to his parents—with whom Max’s biological mother left the child with the cryptic exhortation “don’t let my baby do rodeo”—Max suddenly turns feral, consorting with wild animals, eating grass, and running away to sit face down in a river.

Searching for answers, Maya convinces Alex to embark on a cross-country trip to Montana to track down Max’s birth parents—the first drive west of New Jersey of their American lives. But it’s Maya who’s illuminated by the journey, her own erstwhile wildness summoned for a reckoning by the unsparing landscape, with seismic consequences for herself and her family.

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about the mystery of inheritance and what exactly it means to belong.

The blurb is a bit misleading regarding what the story is about. My interpretation is that the book is centered mostly around Maya, not Max and any issues that are happening with him appear like an excuse to dig deeper into her personal issues.Therefore, I am leaving Maya’s personal problems, mostly untouched as not to give that topic away. The main adult characters, Maya, her husband Alex, and his parents are immigrants who came to America for a better way of life, though I find it surprising that they not only disliked Americans but also anyone who is not like them or has their beliefs, the family also thinks adopted children are second class citizens due to the fact they are unwanted by their biological parents. This implies something must be wrong with them. One aspect of the book that I found strange is that when Maya married into Alex's family, she took on their family's beliefs and views on life, leaving hers behind including her self-esteem. There contains an immense amount of hatred in the book making it tough to read, for example:

“Alex had never touched a gay man before, but now he was holding one’s hand as the twenty Participants formed a grieving circle to commemorate their failed fertility. Why were the gays grieving? They hadn’t been failed by fertility, they had been failed by their dicks.”

Why did Maya and Alex adopt Max if to them he is a second class citizen?  Certainly they thought something was wrong with Max since they were all over the “situation” that took place like it was the end of the world. They assumed something ought to be detrimentally wrong with him because he is adopted, so let’s find his biological parents due to a request the biological mother had given (what did this have to do with his behavior?) or maybe he could just be acting like a boy. I found the need to track down Max’s biological parents extreme. Whereas, some things are genetic like health issues or physical looks. I highly doubt liking nature, such as sitting in a river looking at fish, having an interest in different types of grasses, sleeping outside in a tent would fall under genetic traits or be anything to get your panties in a knot about.   

The prose is nicely written yet I found myself uninterested more often than not. To me the book lacked substance such as adequate situations to keep the reader stimulated, intrigued, or fascinated. Reading the book was more a chore for me yet I never gave up thinking something has to happen at some point that made this worth the tim
e I’ve put into it, nope.


Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of nine. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His first novel, A Replacement Life won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, was one of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. He lives in New York.

*I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins but the review is my opinion only.

         Tour Schedule:
  Wednesday, March 2nd: Reviews by Amos Lassen
Thursday, March 3rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, March 4th: Bibliophiliac
Monday, March 7th: I’m Shelf-ish
Tuesday, March 8th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews – spotlight
Wednesday, March 9th: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, March 9th: The Year in Books
Thursday, March 10th: Fearless Creative
Tuesday, March 15th: BookNAround
Wednesday, March 16th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, March 17th: Mother’s Circle
Monday, March 21st: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, March 23rd: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

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