Official 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.
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 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.
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?