Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman, published 2016. A backward look at adoption from the Russian adoptive parents’ perspective. Immigrants Maya and Alex Rubin get a call that a baby boy has just been born in Montana and he will be waiting for them to pick him up. Maya’s father-in-law says this is too unconventional for Russians and votes against the adoption. And by the way, he wants to know where Montana is. It’s the story of adoption – a child and a country. It’s about inheritance and what it means to belong.
Almost as quickly as they get the call, a car with the biological parents and baby pull into the Rubin’s driveway. Totally against the closed adoption process, the Rubins invite them in and as Bio Mom hands over the baby to Maya, she cryptically whispers “don’t let my baby do rodeo”. At the age of 7, the little boy (Max) turns feral. Eating grass, sleeping only on the floor, being befriended by wild critters and sitting on the bottom of a creek with his face in the water.
To possibly understand why their son acts in this manner, they take a drive from New Jersey to Montana to find the 17-year-old bio parents. The husband and child want to return home while the mother pushes onward. They continue to break sacred code as they track down the adoption agent, barge into his home and ask their questions.
This is the second novel by Fishman, who writes in slow language almost with a yellow filter on. The words are beautiful but there is no hurried pace, no crescendo. The author is known to be comic, tender and sharp. He writes about Russian – speaking Jewish immigrants who never quite seem to leave The Ole Country. The generations just before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. I reviewed Fishman’s debut novel, A Replacement Life, which was a front-cover review in The New York Times Book Review. It was also one of The New York Times‘ 100 Notable Books of 2014.
Fishman received a degree in Russian literature from Princeton University. Afterward, he was on the editorial staff of The New Yorker and then returned to school where he received his MFA in fiction from New York University. This author is a joy to read and I award 4 margaritas to Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo.