No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, Melissa Fay Greene's new book about life with her nine children—four biological, five adopted—is a more revealing, richer book than its cutesy-parenting title might lead you to expect. In it, Greene, a two-time National Book Award finalist, recounts with warmth and humor how she and her criminal defense attorney husband, Donny, came to adopt first a 4-year-old Romani boy from an orphanage in Bulgaria, and then a daughter and three sons from Ethiopia, absorbing each into their upper-middle-class, Jewish, Atlanta home.

 

"This book is the story of the creation of a family," she writes. "It began in the usual way: a woman, a man, some babies. But then it took off in a modern direction, roping in a few older children from distant countries."

 

No Biking is at its best when it takes us to faraway lands: the Bulgarian apartment where Greene spends her first night with her son, Jesse; the toyless (but not joyless) orphanages in Addis Ababa where, over several visits, the family meets the four Ethiopian children who eventually join their ranks. But Greene is equally adept at navigating the world within—within her lively home, her diverse family, and her own complicated emotions.

 

She reveals that family bonds may be formed not only at the moment of birth, but also at the moment when a mother and son sit together on a linoleum floor, playing with LEGOs; or as two close sisters vet their mother's outfit before she leaves the house; or as brothers take the heat for one another after a misdeed; or as we parents find ourselves adding a new entry onto our list of "Things You Never Thought You'd Hear Yourself Say as a Parent." Things like "No biking in the house without a helmet!" Which is maybe not such a bad name for a book after all.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).