When the two-time National Book Award finalist Melissa Fay Greene confided to friends that she and her husband planned to adopt a four-year-old boy from Bulgaria to add to their four children at home, the news threatened to place her, she writes, "among the greats: the Kennedys, the McCaughey septuplets, the von Trapp family singers, and perhaps even Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev, who, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, gave birth to 69 children in eighteenth-century Russia." Greene is best known for her books on the civil rights movement and the African HIV/AIDS pandemic. But Melissa and her husband have also pursued a more private vocation: parenthood.
,p>When the number of children hit nine, Greene took a break from reporting. She trained her journalist's eye upon events at home. Fisseha was riding a bike down the basement stairs; out on the porch, a squirrel was sitting on Jesse's head; vulgar posters had erupted on bedroom walls; the insult niftam (the Amharic word for "snot") had led to fistfights; and four non-native-English-speaking teenage boys were researching, on Mom's computer, the subject of "saxing." "At first I thought one of our trombone players was considering a change of instrument," writes Greene. "Then I remembered: they can’t spell." Using the tools of her trade, she uncovered the true subject of the "saxing" investigation, inspiring the chapter "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Couldn’t Spell." A celebration of parenthood; an ingathering of children, through birth and out of loss and bereavement; a relishing of moments hilarious and enlightening---No Biking in the House Without a Helmet is a loving portrait of a unique twenty first-century family as it wobbles between disaster and joy.
Nonfiction author Melissa Fay Greene (Praying for Sheetrock, The Temple Bombing, and There Is No Me Without You) turns her powers of observation and curiosity on herself as she recounts the adoption of her five children from Bulgaria and Ethiopia. Greene and her husband, a prominent Atlanta attorney, already have four children of their own, but after a late pregnancy ends in miscarriage, the couple begins the agonizing, harrowing, and often hilarious process of adopting foreign children and integrating them into their swelling home.
Multi-award-winning voice artist Coleen Marlo adopts the voice of Greene and nails the fear, self-doubt, and motherly instinct that kicks in as the author travels alone to Bulgaria and Addis Ababa to meet the children she and her husband plan to adopt. Marlo’s crisp diction makes for an easy listen, although she occasionally becomes overwrought in passages, such as when Greene is trying to pitch a story to a magazine while dealing with her screaming infant son. There’s also an occasional odd fluctuation in Marlo’s voice, where her zeal for perfect diction affects something approaching a mannered English accent.
Greene is unflinching in her depiction of the poverty and desperation she finds on her sojourns to visit the orphanages and with the upheaval and dramas that occur once the adopted children are brought home. Marlo infuses Greene’s despair over young Jesse’s unexplainable rages and separation anxiety with empathetic tones. There’s also humor, especially when young Ethiopians Daniel and Yosef are caught watching porn on Greene’s computer, and nuanced drama as an older Jesse eventually sees his birth mother and claims, “I’m not a mystery anymore.” Describing a book as heartwarming might be a cliché, but in an age of dark and twisted memoirs, Greene and Marlo sheds light on a difficult, life-altering, and, ultimately, selfless decision. Collin Kelley
"An upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love." (Kirkus)
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Great story of family changes
The author shared the joys and the agonies of mothering nine children, five of them adopted as children from other countries. I learned what it's like to raise so many children and felt like a relative slacker with only three children. I also learned about other countries and cultures and adoption. The book is heartwarming, funny, and fast-paced. It's a great listen.
- Debra Garfinkle