Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo
By: Boris Fishman
In his second novel, “Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo,” Boris Fishman builds a story around a young couple, Alex and Maya Rubin, who are both immigrants from Eastern Europe. Maya, who grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, came to the United States as a medical student, though she had a strong passion to be a chef. Alex came over from Belarus when he was a young child with his mother and father. After an extremely short courtship, Alex and Maya get married and decide to start a family. Unfortunately, they are unable to have children naturally, so they agree to adopt a child. This is a reluctant decision since both Alex and his parents believe that adopted kids are like second class children. Yet, they decide to adopt nonetheless, provided that it’s a closed adoption, and they will have no contact with the biological parents.
A baby is eventually placed with the Rubins, and they name him Max (which is meant to be a mishmash of the names “Maya” and “Alex.”) Max was born from two teenagers from Montana who drive all the way to New Jersey to personally deliver the baby to the Rubins. Along with the baby comes an ominous message from Laurel, Max’s biological mother, who adamantly stated, “Don’t let my baby do rodeo.”
Fast forward 8 years later when Maya and Alex discover that Max is unlike any other child. He chews grass, he runs away, refuses to sleep in a bed, and could easily be considered feral. Distraught, the Rubins go on a mission to seek answers and help their child. In an act of desperation, they agree to go on a road trip to Montana to find Max’s birth parents and figure out why Max is the way he is.
Despite the story line revolving mostly around Max’s adoption and his new, strange behavior, the main character in the book is not Max, it’s Maya. The story comes from her point of view and most of the insights discovered throughout the story are more about her than of Max. She’s described as a woman in her mid forties who never fought for her dream of becoming a chef. Her marriage is no great love affair and at one point she even questions whether she married Alex for love or for US citizenship. She’s afraid to drive and has never left New Jersey since coming to the United States. It’s obvious that she has desires but she lacks the confidence to fulfill them.
Throughout the book, Maya is overprotective of herself and of her son. This is evident in the amount of times she and Alex conceal the truth from Max. They never tell him he’s adopted; they lie to him about why they are bringing him to a therapist and also why they are traveling to Montana. It’s as if they are trying to protect him from reality. This may also be another way of Maya protecting herself.
I won’t give away the conclusion except to say that Maya eventually finds what she needs. But it may not have been specifically what she was looking for or what she expected.
“Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo” is a heartfelt, often funny, novel that defines what it means to be a family and ultimately what it means to belong.