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No Biking in the House Without a Helmet: 9 Kids, 3 Continents, 2 Parents, 1 Family Paperback – April 24, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With four children of their own, Atlanta journalist Greene (There Is No Me Without You) and her husband, a criminal defense attorney, gradually adopted five more—one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia—to create a roiling, largehearted family unit. In her whimsical, hilarious account, she pokes fun at her own initial cluelessness regarding the adoption process, which the couple began after Greene suffered a miscarriage in her mid-40s; they procured an "adoption doctor" to advise them on the risks of adopting institutionalized babies from Russian and Bulgarian orphanages (e.g., the baby's head measurements and appearance in videos might indicate developmental problems). After several trips to a rural Bulgarian orphanage, they brought home a four-year-old Roma boy they renamed Jesse; Greene writes frankly about her own moments of "post-adoption panic" and doubts about attachment. Subsequently, as her older children headed out to college, new ones arrived: the humanitarian HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia resolved the couple to adopt healthy, five-year-old Helen, orphaned when her family was decimated by the disease; then nine-year-old Fisseha, and two brothers, Daniel and Yosef, whom Greene's older biological son Lee befriended while working at another Ethiopian orphanage. The family often felt like a "group home," as Greene depicts engagingly, yet despite periods of tension and strife, such as the discovery of living parents and sibling rivalry, Greene captures the family's triumphant shared delight in one another's differences. (May)
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“Love knows no bounds--and no borders--in journalist Greene's ebullient valentine to her family of nine children . . . ‘Who made you the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?' a friend quips, but Greene doesn't apologize. Instead, she shows what it means to knit together a family that ‘steers by the light . . . of what feels right and true.'” ―Caroline Leavitt, People (four stars)

“Readers . . . will find plenty of hilarity in this romping account of [Greene's] boisterous brood . . . [she] brings her well-honed research and reporting skills to this very personal story . . . this joy--experiencing it and conveying it to readers--is her greatest success.” ―Suki Casanave, The Washington Post

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet is [Melissa Fay Greene's] sprawling, imperfect, courageous and joyful account of the adoption process, warts and all--the heart-wrenching trips to orphanages, frustrating delays, visits with living relatives, and the way her family welcomed and made room for each child, as well as the inevitable homesickness and culture clashes and sometimes rocky emotional terrain . . . The moral of her story? Just the opposite of the title's warning. Don't be afraid to break the rules, to 'steer by the light of what makes us laugh, what makes us feel good'--especially if it means biking in the house, with or without a helmet. With deep compassion, sparkling humor and an unshakable faith in the power of the whoopee cushion, she leads the way.” ―Gina Webb, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Moving, enlightening, and surprisingly funny ... No Biking in the House Without a Helmet ... folds an adoption primer into a meditation on family.” ―Sara Nelson, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Joyful and big-hearted . . . This funny and frankly personal book is a departure for Greene, whose previous work has been sober and measured. The title sounds like a madcap domestic comedy in the tradition of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, which it sometimes is. But Greene's humor is less acerbic, her persona less addled . . . Greene is such an open and self-deprecating narrator she makes every addition to her family seem like the most natural and beautiful move in the world, ‘each child--whether homemade or foreign born--a revelation, a treasure.' The ability to write brilliant books with a houseful of children is clearly the least of Greene's gifts.” ―Jennifer Reese, NPR.org

“There are funny parenting books and wise parenting books. Rarely a funny and wise parenting book. Melissa Fay Greene really does have nine children, five of whom were adopted from foreign orphanages--but this book isn't a treacly, multicultural ‘Brady Bunch.' Neither moralistic nor preachy, this memoir is about what it's like to have heart, and grow children with heart. In another writer's less deft hands, children who herded goats in Ethiopia and then relocated to a big old house in Atlanta could have become a Southern Jewish version of Brad and Angelina. Greene captures the wild vicissitudes of her family's life and how individual difference enriches them all.” ―Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune

“For the past 21 years Melissa Fay Greene has been raising nine children, both biological and adopted. In her memoir No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, she writes of the many parenting obstacles she has encountered, overcome, and met again as the rules change completely for her second wave of children. Talk about a story for the ages. ” ―Town & Country

“A truly heartfelt memoir . . . [Greene] resists the urge to be cloying, however, infusing each chapter with a strong dose of humor and not shying away from the difficulties presented by adopting older children . . . It's all one big, happy family but also a very real one. Call them the twenty-first-century Waltons, and revel in the joy they have found and brought home for keeps.” ―Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)

“Greene is a writer of emotional impact . . . Her words are flush with humanity and all the messiness and comedy that humanity trails in its wake. She goes the distance, which is a beautiful thing to behold . . . Eventually, an enveloping sweetness and involvement swept away all but what is elementally grand about being a parent and nursing a child. An upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Joy to the world. Line by glorious line, with raw honesty and unforced hilarity, Melissa Fay Greene tells the story of the true mega-family of the millennium, which is not some reality-show curiosity shop, but her very own nine children: those who came home from the hospital and those who came home from the airport. People often assure me that I'll laugh and cry reading a book. I may smile; I may feel a lump in my throat. But I wept a dozen times reading No Biking and woke my own kids up with my laughter, as I stayed up all night with this, the Cheaper by the Dozen for a new planet. Melissa Fay Greene never set out to raise the world, only to raise her children. With this book, she raises the bar, wherever the word ‘family' is spoken, for every single one of us.” ―Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Second Nature: A Love Story

“The funniest part of this book is not the fact that several of Melissa Fay Greene's nine children were once Ethiopian goat herders. The funniest part is that she has nine children. She not only loves and appreciates every one, she brings them all to vivid life with affection, exasperation, candor, and (indispensable, under the circumstances) humor. I went from Are you kidding? to I love these people! in four pages flat.” ―Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!

“Brimming with humor and love, the story of Greene's ever-expanding family is both unique and universal. Not everyone watches a son spear a Frisbee in mid-flight or weave a bullwhip out of the suburban shrubbery. But everyone at some point asks what it means to be a parent, a sibling, a family. Greene answers these questions with wit and wisdom. I finished her book with a renewed conviction that it is possible to shrink this wide world and to begin to bridge the chasms that have opened between us.” ―Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March

“About every five years, we get a book from Melissa Fay Greene. I've learned to wait for them eagerly, always excited to know what this thoughtful, sensitive writer is going to do next. Now--No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. That title tells you in no uncertain terms that you will laugh, but there's a lot more in these pages than humor, including Melissa's trademark generosity, optimism, winning self-deprecation, and high spirits. As a writer, a reader, and--like Melissa--the parent of an adopted child, I'm glad to know that this book will soon be out, and I hope it finds a very large audience.” ―David Guterson, author of The Other and Snow Falling on Cedars


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374533385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374533380
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As the Kirkus Review so aptly put it, this is "an upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love." Having known and loved this family for 20 years, having been along with them for the ride, I have to admit to a certain partiality. So I leave it to others to be objective and I think their reviews give credence to my not-impartial enthusiasm for this author and her remarkable abilities as a story teller. It comes naturally to her -- conversations on walks around the neighborhood, on breezy screen porches, over makeshift dinners or gala Passover seders over the years, have been full of tears and laughter -- mostly laughter -- as Melissa has shared the stories of her parenting journey, many of which are beautifully captured in this book. My son, an only child, had the remarkable good luck to be great friends with Melissa's #3 Lee. We lived just down the street so his younger life was lived between the quiet of our household and the raucous fun at the Greene-Samuel's. Even our lone pet, Lulu the huge Golden Retriever, knew where to find the party when she was so inclined, and considered little Frannie, the Rat Terrier, to be her best friend. Somehow, the concept of overwhelm hasn't made it into Melissa's or Donny's consciousness. There was always time to work on science projects, put together Halloween costumes, write amazing books, cook dinner, visit with friends, cheer at soccer games, soothe hurts, do the laundry -- lots of laundry, care for aging parents, and pick up the phone to call me whenever Lulu wandered over to let me know not to worry. Being privy to this way of living has the potential to make a regular person feel inadequate!Read more ›
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This book is an absolute treasure. I couldn't put it down. It is that rare combination of laugh-out-loud humor and profound wisdom delivered in fresh, sparkling prose. I don't have adopted kids or a large family but I found it richly relevant and inspiring. Greene is an astute observor and nudges the reader into paying more attention to the small lively details of ordinary life. Her love and enthusiastic enjoyment of her family, even when things aren't going well, and her exuberant love of life is infectious. I didn't want the book to end. Tolstoy once wrote that the highest purpose of art is to help people love life. This book offers that gift page by page, along with valuable insights about how to love those closest to you.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kudos to Greene on this book. This is the first time I've read any of her writing, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style.

And right here is where I must disclose my own bias: I have three adopted children myself. I did not adopt internationally, but believe me, I know the challenges that come with adopting kids who are... different. I appreciate Greene's candor in telling her tale, especially in regard to issues such as post-adoption depression and just plain having second thoughts. Blending a family--even when the kids are simply step-sibs--can be trying.

Greene shares her experience with love, honesty, wit, charm and compassion. This is a beautifully written book. During the week I was reading it, I looked forward to coming home from work each day, making a cup of tea, and reading of her adventures with her children. No Biking in the House is a delightful memoir that I will be recommending to friends and family members!
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My copy of No Biking in the House without a Helmet arrived on Monday and I did not put it down until I finished it. I relate to the reviewer who felt she was neglecting her own kids to read it. Thinking I would have time to read some while waiting in carpool Monday afternoon, I was disappointed when they brought me my kids right away. So, I held the book in my lap and I read it at red lights!

The book is delightful and enchanting in every possible way. I've always loved Melissa Fay Greene's writing. Her prose invites you in, makes you feel like the people she's writing about are your friends and neighbors. I remember feeling that way about Praying for Sheetrock, too. With "No Biking," I felt like I was in on the jokes, laughing and crying alongside her. I don't want to over or understate how funny this book is, because I certainly laughed a lot. My husband began to get seriously annoyed when I kept wanting to read funny parts aloud to him because he wants to read it himself. "Really, really, this part won't ruin the book for you!" stopped working after the half dozen times I invoked it. But while it is entertaining, and funny, and her ability to find humor where some of us might have missed it is a gift -- the book is so much more.

While I have two children, and not 9, I read the book as a mother and learned more about myself and what I aspire to be as a mother. With all the recent hoopla about the Tiger Mother in my mind while I read it, I thought "I want to be a Melissa Mother"--generous, honest, present, loving, pointing my children in the right direction and letting them be both their individual selves and an integral part of the family unit.
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