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Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

UK Publisher: One/Pushkin Press

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.