A story of immigrants and adoption, a mother’s journey and self-exploration, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman, was a book filled with gorgeous, rich sentences, and the requirement of some close reading.
The conflict between superstitions and traditions and the immersion into another culture, even decades later, is powerful, as are the discoveries of what lies within relationships. Familial bonds, marital and in-law relationships and the dissection of what it really means to be a mother, a parent, a family.
Fear and loneliness, blame and self doubt, lies and truths all tangle together throughout Maya’s tortured journey.
Fishman crafts sentences that forced me to underline and reread them to savor the just-right combinations of words. Some of my favorites:
“Alex rose, the sofa giving him up with a sigh,”
“‘For my father, there’s no gift without a con wrapped around it. You divide what he says by half and subtract, and you start getting closer. He speaks in Fahrenheit, but the truth is closer to Celsius.'”
“…the value of pragmatic deceit…”
“The night shift regularly put him in acquaintance with the glitches and flaws of human design.”
“…every obsession withers if you just hold down the obsessive…”
“…when he agreed to unshell himself, the world loved him.”
“…property of the international imagination.”
“For life’s emergencies, some men carried condoms, Band-Aids, umbrellas. Eugene Rubin carried a jar of roasted peppers.” I add this sentence because I love that image and I completely know who this man is, kind of reminds me of my own father in law.
“…and partly because all their lives had low ceilings courtesy of the state in which they had the misfortune to live. … The Low Ceiling made ambition impossible…”
“It was easier to fear than to regret.”
“…the grass exhaling after being released by the sun.”
“…the subfusc prologue of the morning was pushing up the black sky with impatience.”
“How little it took to unravel things, compared to what it had taken to make them cohere.”
While I loved this story and admire the craft, I did find this book required very close reading. There were multiple times that I wasn’t quite sure that I was following exactly what had happened and re-read immediately or had to go back chapters later to figure out what I’d missed. I wondered: Was there ever really a snake in the tent? And I completely missed that Maya’s fantasy in the shower was a fantasy – I’d read it as though the description had happened. This may simply be “reader-error” but there were enough incidents where as as reader I felt tripped up or a little unsure so I feel it’s worth mentioning.
Listen here to a terrific interview with Boris Fishman on Reading With Robin. I listened in the airport and got sideways looks as I laughed out loud at parts. I regret having to travel and miss his visit to Rhode Island. Boris, one day we’ll meet! Thanks for the good read!
About Boris Fishman
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 an advanced reader copy of this book but no compensation for this review. This review is a part of TLC Book Tours.
© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016