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 was 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 is 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 facedown 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.
Praise for A Replacement Life
“Boris Fishman’s first novel, A Replacement Life, is bold, ambitious, and wickedly smart. . . . The only problem with this novel is that its covers are too close together. . . . Undoubtedly, comparisons will be made—to Bellow and the Roths (Henry and Philip), as well as to . . . Bernard Malamud.” —Patricia T. O’Conner, New York Times Book Review
“Fishman, like his protagonist, is a born storyteller with a tremendous gift for language on all brow levels, making for a captivating and rare first novel that is tender, learned, funny, and deeply soulful—frequently all at the same time.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Fishman’s firm yet light authorial hand, his gift for character and plot development, and his searing use of the English language belie his youth and his novice-novelist status. His witty dialogue and wry, believable descriptions leaven the dark, dense bread of the tale.”—Chicago Tribune
“An ingenious debut. . . . The novel is often very funny, but its most rewarding moments come as Slava, listening to the war stories of . . . elderly strangers, finds himself drawing closer to the grandmother whose secrets once seemed lost to him.”—New Yorker“Powerful yet tender . . . real and vibrant. . . . Fishman never loses the reader’s trust. No line in this book rings false, no character is unheard, no event seems like a plot device.”—Newsweek