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.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.