Book Review & Book Club Discussion: The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

thetwofamilyhousecoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins.

From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, emotion, longing, love, and mystery.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Setting: Brooklyn 1947 – 1970

My copy came from: The library! And I read this book because it was my book club’s selection for the month of September.

Review: Interesting tale of a family breakdown, but doesn’t really start clicking until the end.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman is the story of two families, brothers Mort and Abe, and their wives, Rose and Helen.

Mort and Rose have three girls, and Abe and Helen have four boys, when Rose and Helen each are pregnant and give birth on the same night. What follows is a tale of family drama and secrets.

 THE CHARACTERS

Each chapter of The Two-Family House is told from the POV of a different character. You have the brothers Mort and Abe, and their wives Rose and Helen, and also Judith, one of Rose’s daughters, and Natalie, Helen’s daughter. The families live in one house, one family has the upstairs and one family has the downstairs, and their lives are intertwined and full of joy and conflict.

I have to say that the characters, with the exception of Judith and Natalie, and Helen to an extent, are unlikable. Mort is so angry at being forced to be a part of the family business, that he takes his anger out on his wife, and blames her for only producing daughters. Abe is better, he at least shows some caring towards his wife and family, but he is so oblivious about his brother’s anger and unhappiness that he comes across as being very selfish.

Rose is a very complex character, as she slowly spins out of control, but even though I felt for her and her decisions, I just didn’t connect with her reasoning for her actions. And Helen was that perfect cook and mother that barges in and tries to fix everything constantly, so that was annoying and I could understand Rose’s resentment of Helen. But that still doesn’t make me like or care for her character.

Judith, the oldest daughter of Mort and Rose, is a likable if bland narrator. Judith, a bright scholar, struggles with her parents and yearns for their attention. Natalie, Abe and Helen’s daughter, has a bit more passion in her, but we don’t get into her head until later on in the story when she has grown up, and at that point I was getting so frustrated with the book and the characters, that Natalie’s narration couldn’t save it.

THE PLOT

The plot I’m being deliberately vague about, and you’ll notice that the official synopsis above doesn’t really say anything either. I figured out what the “secret” was on page one, as did everyone else in my book club, so I’m not sure what all the secrecy towards the plot is about. But, I’ll leave it a surprise for those who may not figure it out right away. Since the “secret” was so obvious, I kept waiting for a twist that never happened.

I would definitely read another book written by Lynda Cohen Loigman, as the writing was good. I just couldn’t connect with the characters, and that makes enjoying a book difficult.

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION

The Two-Family House was truly an excellent discussion book. Oddly enough, I don’t think any of us particularly loved the book, but it was definitely a great discussion book! Our discussion ranged from mental illness, to introverts and extroverts, to family responsibility, and parenting. It was one of the liveliest discussions our group has had!

WHAT I MADE FOR BOOK CLUB

For our Page Turners meetings, we all bring something to eat, sometimes themed for the book, sometimes not; we just bring whatever we feel like bringing! This time I attempted to make kugel, a Jewish dish mentioned in The Two-Family House, and it was wonderful! I think I’ve found my new favorite food, as this was fairly easy to make, and was absolutely delicious hot from the oven, or cold from the fridge as leftovers.

Here’s a link to the recipe that I made (recipe is from Allrecipes).

And the next selection for my book club is Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, which is seriously intimidating to me for some reason! I think it might be due to the length. I hope to be able to finish this one, as things have been super-crazy in my life lately, and I’m also adding a bit of travel to my plate this month as well.

Bottom Line: The Two-Family House is great book for discussion; otherwise it is full of unlikable characters which leads to frustration.

Links to The Two-Family House on Amazon and  Goodreads

Links to Stones from the River on Amazon   and  Goodreads

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in reading? Do you like kugel best hot or cold? What are some great discussion books?


17 thoughts on “Book Review & Book Club Discussion: The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

    1. I ended up rating this book 3 stars on Goodreads. I don’t usually put star ratings in my reviews, as my star ratings do change over time, but my thoughts stay the same.
      This was an interesting book, and was definitely a good discussion book! So if I was rating on discussion only, it would’ve been 5 stars, and I really recommend this book for book clubs, as everyone in my book club had different ideas and interpretations of the characters, so we had a lively discussion. 🙂

      Like

  1. I guess this sounds like one that can be passed over. If the secret is as open as you say, I don’t know what the author was thinking. Or maybe you guys were the smart ones. He he.
    I guess characters that are so poor that we can’t possibly care for them make reading a book more tedious than anything else, save maybe crappy writing.

    Great review. And that Jewish dish you told of, I’ve never even heard its name. 😁😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh the kugel was sooo good! I need to make it again 🙂 I hadn’t heard of it either, until I read this book, and I’m always looking for something new to try for book club.
      It was really odd about the “secret”. We couldn’t quite tell if it was just marketed that way, or if the author truly thought no one would figure it out?
      The characters were so tough to read. Just unlikable people! Which made it difficult to connect to the book.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Trying food mentioned or inspired by the book is really a lot of fun! Our club has tried many delicious dishes over the years! I’m always excited to try to make something new 🙂
      The noodles seemed a bit odd when I was making the dish, but honestly, the dish was SO good (like seriously one of the best things I’ve had in a really long time), that I kind of forgot I was eating a noodle dish. The kugel is kind of like a souffle, or a custard/pudding type dish, and while it is sweet, it is traditionally served as a side dish. It kind of smelled like cotton candy or marshmallows while it was baking. When I made it I doubled the graham-cracker topping and yum-o! that topping was so good!
      Yay for discovering new foods! It’s one of my favorite things about book club.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your description sounds nicer than I imagined from reading through the recipe and looking at the pictures (it was the noodles that put me off). A sweet side dish would be very unusual in Australia.
        Your book club sounds terrific too, food, books, good company, what more could you want?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I check it daily now. I’ve never been in there before, but I had a day where I caught up to like, 200 emails, and I guess because I was blog-hopping so heavily Askimet thought I was Spam. Bad Askimet!
        Watch out, that bastard is dangerous! 😑

        Liked by 1 person

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