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Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo: A Novel Hardcover– Deckle Edge, March 1, 2016 by Boris Fishman

From the Publisher.

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.


Worth Getting in Bed For? Yes. The Montana state line came and went without any of the ceremony that Maya expected on crossing into the fabled Montana.  The word had worked a furrow in her mind until it’s overuse had rendered it free of association altogether, just a gurgitation of the Rubins’ astonishment, sorrow, confusion. 

That’s how I felt reading this book. A darling of the critics. On all the to watch/read lists and as I am reading I feel astonishment, sorrow, confusion. At least half the time I was re-reading passages or reviews, sure I had missed something. And I had missed something. This novel is a sum of all of its parts. I finished it and I finally got it. I had to chew on it for a few days to work through Maya’s story because it’s her story, finally. I was bewildered as I read it, much as Maya was to find herself in her own skin. And I didn’t even realize how immersed in these characters lives I had become until I was already there. Well done, Boris Fishman,  Well done.

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About the Author. Boris Fishman was born in Belarus and has lived in the United States since the age if nine.  He is the Author of A Replacement Life, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, London Reveiw of Books and other publications. He lives in New York City. 

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