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No Biking in the House Without a Helmet

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,134 Ratings  ·  398 Reviews

The Joyous, Honest, and Compulsively Readable Account of a Great, Loving, Not-Uncomplicated, and Ever-Expanding Family


“This is my twenty-first year in elementary school,” the story begins. “For twenty-one years, I’ve carried in cupcakes, enclosed checks, and provided emergency phone numbers.”


The award-winning author Melissa Fay Greene and her husband, Don Samuel, an atto

Kindle Edition, 367 pages
Published April 11th 2011 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published March 31st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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This book is just plain joyful, and I loved it. I was only mildly interested in its topic of large families with international adoptees, and kind of expected it to be a different twist on what I think of as the typical parenting memoir: I had kids, they say funny things, I learned something about myself, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. It is that, but Greene is very very funny and a very very good writer. I could barely put the book down.

Greene had four biological children, and then got i
Marjorie Ingall
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Melissa Fay Greene is so freaking FUNNY -- and when she's writing about her family, rather than about Southern racism/a synagogue bombing/the Ethiopian orphan crisis, she can really let her comedy flag fly. (To be fair, there was humor in her "serious" books, and there's a lot of seriousness in this hilarious book.) She mocks herself constantly and she isn't sentimental -- two traits you need when you're writing about adopting five kids after having four bio ones. To nitpick, I did think the boo ...more
Hayley DeRoche
Pros/Cons -- 4.5 stars in my head, 5 stars given -- cons may be more my *desires* vs what the book contained, so take that as you will.

PRO: The family's continued SUPPORT of the extended families of their adopted children. International adoption is very complicated and there have been many instances where families did not understand the full implications of adoption, or have openly lied (as is the case with one of their children's extended/bio family), and the family seems to make solid efforts
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I have a strongly held personal rule that I only read parenting books written by people with five or more children – after an upsetting incident when I threw an insipid book across the room - a book written by a psychologist with two girls. So I was pleased to find this memoir written by a woman with 9 children – 4 biological and five adopted from Ethiopia and Bulgaria. Not that this was a parenting book, but Melissa Fay Greene humorously and without sparing her own inadequacies, tells the story ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved Melissa Fay Greene ever since "There is no Me Without You" and have followed her blog and have been impatiently waiting for her to write about her own family. I had to read and then re-read aloud to my husband and kids the chapters on the adoption of their four-year old son from Bulgaria. We had just come home from China with our newly adopted four year-old boy and although the names and countries are different, so many stories were exactly what we're dealing with right now. Exactly ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I find myself justifying/ explaining our choice to adopt our middle daughter quite often. To us, it just made sense, according to who we were, but the real reason why Melissa Greene adopts is because she is suffering from MAJOR empty nest syndrome.

It's not a reason I understand, but that seemed to be her overriding concern.

This book is a rambling memoir of her trip through the adoption process, and while she has a few attachment struggles (which brought back some painful/sad memories for me), s
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book dragged in a few places (some chapters felt unnecessary or redundant), I really enjoyed the extended peek into this blended family. I learned quite a bit about adoption. I also really respected this couple's parenting of all their children. They set high expectations, but didn't hover. They swore, laughed off things like broken lamps or windows, empathized with the loss of a rodent-like pet, etc. They seemed fairly laid back, in general, and their kids turned out to be respectful, ...more
I picked this one up from the Reader's Choice shelf at my library, and I was pretty much expecting a lot of laugh-track needy quips, like the title would suggest. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was an honest and fascinating memoir of adoptive parenting, with genuine (not forced) humor.
Greene is a great non-fiction writer. Her style is easy to read and enjoyable. I liked the way in which she mixed family anecdotes with her personal journey of international adoption and larger i
Mary Jane
I was hoping for more on the challenges of this blended family (like conflicting personalities and discipline) but she didn't really address any of that until the book was almost over. I also thought it was interesting that she discussed how important it was for each child to retain their original culture (Ethiopian, Bulgarian) and they made trips back to Ethiopia and attempted to maintain contact with biological family members. But when it came to religion her adopted children were expected to ...more
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To begin with a disclaimer, the author of this book is my first cousin, 1x removed. That said, I recall meeting her once when I was a child but haven't had much contact with them and have never met her children at all. I'd like to meet them and get to know them and that is one of the reasons I jumped on the opportunity to read this book through Amazon Vine.

No Biking in the House concerns the path one family took, pursuing multiple international adoptions as their children grew up and moved out
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few things that stood out for me here:

First, I had almost no trouble keeping track of who was who. That's hard, when you're writing about nine kids and two adults (and various friends and relatives and acquaintances). It helps, of course, that the characters are gradually introduced; the story is chronological, charting Greene's forays first into biological parenthood and then, tentatively, into adoption. Also interesting to see how differently the kids adapted, depending largely, it would app
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this, it's light without being fluffy, sweet without the saccharine after-taste and humourous.

Melissa Fay Greene is a non-fiction journalist of repute, but this is more of a personal story of how and she and her family adopted 5 children from overseas. The beginning of the book is slower and more sombre, as she researches intercountry adoption and discusses the terrible effects of post-institutionalism on children. Anyone my age (40s) must surely remember the opening of those wicked wic
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for the joy it gave me. It wasn't the first time I picked it up. I had read bits of it in magazines, and started it at least once without finishing. I think the difference was that this time I got as far as the Ethiopian adoptions and then I was truly captivated. Living in Ethiopia for 4 1/2 years, our family met and hosted several American and Canadian families who had come to adopt. I always had mixed feelings about it, worrying about the suffering of the families who gave up ...more
Rachel N
It is with great regret that I only give Melissa Fay Greene's new book only two stars. Fifty percent of it would receive 5 stars, but the rest was so disappointing.

The five star material includes her stellar descriptions of the adoption process for each child - the emotions involved with adoption and the humorous moments (I laughed out loud many times). I was also really moved by the one son who spent a lot of time in Ethiopia and devoted many months to just playing with the kids in various orp
Mary Etta
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
June book group selection.

There were many reasons to like the book. The first several chapters were laugh-out-loud funny. Then the mood changed greatly as the author and her husband began searching for a child to adopt, and then another and more from various third-world countries. Melissa Greene also introduces other families who have also adopted as they have. She writes well and with sensitivity and honesty of her family's experiences in their expansion.

Page 131, she gives a very interesting
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I won a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I'm the oldest of 10 children in an adoptive, mixed-race family. Greene has 4 birth children and 5 adopted children, and this memoir details how her family came together and the adoption stories of each child, along with stories of daily life in her family. Obviously this was deeply personal for me so it was wonderful to read such a familiar story that very few people understand. However, the book was also very well-written, engaging and fu
Kary H.
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Outside of a few minor quibbles about how lightly the author treats certain subjects, the memoir is touching, humorous, engaging and inspiring.
Cheryl Neer
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Good read of a mother's story of 4 birth and 5 adopted children and the joys and challenges of family.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-top-rated
I just loved this story. It was honest and told with love ( that's no euphemism for poorly written either).
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall really entertaining, emotional and interesting book about a family's decision to adopt children from Bulgaria and Ethiopia. Greene is very honest about the challenges she faced-- and the internal struggles she had to come to terms with before, during and for many months after the adoptions. I have no personal interest in adopting children but this was a great peek into that world.
Stacie (BTR)
DNF...the overall tone was a bit too self-satisfied for my taste and not really focused on the aspects of foster care and adoption that interest me.
Lindsey Torkko
This book was really enjoyable. Inspirational really, and yet I would encourage anyone who uses this book as a jumping off point for adoption, to read some additional literature as not all families come together so well and it can be really traumatic for everyone. Whether this family didn't experience as much of that, or whether it was sugar coated, this isn't the experience for everyone. Still, funny, encouraging, eye opening and easy to read.
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ruth
I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Faye Greene at the Austin Jewish Book Fair in November. She was there to sign No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Sarah Crichton Books, 2011)and to provide the opening address. No Biking is a memoir chronicling how she and her family of six (mom, dad, four kids) adopted five orphans from overseas—one Bulgarian-Romani and four Ethiopian—over a period of eight years.

Gotta love this woman, gotta read her book. Smart, witty, warm—in person and in print. Gr
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At some point parents are faced with the prospect of the "empty nest syndrome". Some parents deal with it by moving to a big city (like my husband and I did- don't worry though, we told the kids and gave them our new address), some take up new hobbies, and Melissa Fay Greene and her husband met the challenge by adopting children from Bulgaria and Ethiopia, as told in No Biking in the House Without a Helmet.

The Samuels (Don is a criminal defense attorney, Melissa a writer) had four children, and
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Would have been good as a magazine article but as a book it didn't always make sense.
Anne Martin
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun book about adoption sounds like an oxymoron, but that is exactly what the author has managed to write.
After having 4 kids the normal way, the Greenes liked having children around so much that they looked into adoption. At first, it was a theme suggested to Melissa by her editor, but from the beginning, everybody knew there was something more to it. So, Melissa began checkimg and searching what international agencies had to offer. Quite quickly, she sets apart the compulsive liars, selling
Diane Busch
Oh my! What a hoot! Melissa writes so humorously about her and her husband Donny's journey of raising 4 biological children and 5 adopted children (4 from Ethiopia). I was interested to read this book because I have a grandson, a great niece, and a great nephew adopted from Ethiopia and I wanted to read about her family's experiences. Some of the stories are heart wrenching, some are heart warming, and some are unbelievably miraculous. I don't always condone her language or parenting methods, bu ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read "There is No Me Without You" by this author a few years ago. I thought that was a great book about Ethiopia and adoption there. I figured it would be great to read this biographical book by the same author to see her personal experience with adopting in Ethiopia (and Bulgaria).

I really liked this book. It offered a pretty honest portrayal of what it must be like to adopt. She was honest with all the exasperating and thrilling details of adopting. She made it seem difficult (as it is) but
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Nov 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-14
Fascinating story of a family adopting five orphans from overseas...buried inside a dull-to-the-point-of-nausea story of an author's self doubts, family tales, and pets. I think it was the pets that finally did me in. Her self doubts prior to the first adoption and her depression that followed it seemed to be an important part of the story. She was trying to be honest with us, the readers, so it was interesting in spite of her bludgeonish writing style. Someone must have told her, why tell somet ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed out loud at page 30- "At six months of age, the rosy-checked baby propped herself up into a slump on my bed one afternoon, reached across the bedspread to my notebook, ripped out a page of the essay I was writing, and ate it." The following comparison of the baby to a public tv documentary snake eating a frog didn't hurt. The finality of "and ate it". Reminded me of my kids who = could definately imagine doing that at 6 months old.

The book is full of moments that make you grin or laugh
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Melissa Greene has been a contributor to NPR, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, LIFE, Good Housekeeping, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Readers Digest, Ms., The Wilson Quarterly, Redbook, and She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Don Samuel, a criminal defense attorney. They have been married for 28 years and are the parents of nine children: Molly, Seth, Lee, Lily, Jesse (adopted ...more
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“Adoption is the appropriate response to only one situation: the need of a child for a new family, combined with a family’s desire for a new child.” 1 likes
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