BOOK REVIEW: THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE BY Lynda Cohen Loigman
I finished reading The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman a few days ago, but I felt I needed to process my thoughts before writing about it.
The story takes place in Brooklyn, in 1947. Friends by proximity, sisters by marriage, two women of the same family wind up giving birth on the same day, within a few minutes of one another at home during a blizzard. Because of the storm, their husbands never make it to the birth. The only two people present are the harrowing midwife who fights wind and ice to get there, and a younger daughter of one of the moms. Two beautiful, healthy babies are born. An absolute cause for celebration for most people, except on this particular day, the worlds of these two women collided and changed forever; each hiding a dark secret caused by one decision, made on that blustery night. A secret that works to tear away at these two souls for decades to come.
The book is well written. The story is engaging. The description of the spats and idiosyncrasies of city life, delicious. I can remember hearing stories about my family members who also lived in the same kind of Brooklyn family home, each with their own apartments. When we would come to visit, I thought it was the coolest thing to run up and down the stairs to each apartment of those I loved. Together, we would enjoy a Sunday meal around a long table. Extra chairs were brought in and slid forward to accommodate everyone. As a small child, I remember sitting and listening to the stories, the discussions, and even the arguments as I stuffed my face. Nevertheless, despite any family drama the Sunday meals continued to happen like clockwork. These gatherings etched an important concept of family as part of my personality especially when I became a parent years later. I share this because the author gave us a wonderful peek into this special world before ripping it away. She showed us the intimate relationships forged by families forced by circumstance to live on top of one another. How the children become more than cousins, and how friends can become as close as sisters–only to turn adversaries.
Was the story plausible? That was my issue. Everything about the many characters’ personalities supported the author's premise, except one isolated fragment. For days, I have played that one scenario over in my head–which frankly, is the sign of a good book because it got me thinking. Ultimately, I gave the book 4-stars instead of 5. I did so simply for the reason that I felt there was one plot hole that wasn’t adequately addressed. In all honesty, it might be a ‘plot hole’ that only I have a problem with, so please, take what I say with a grain of salt.
With that said, the story is about love, family, longing, miscommunication, secrets, and mystery. But it is also about heartbreak and disillusion. It is the kind of book you will pick up and read right through, and it will most certainly hold your attention. And if you are able to temporarily set aside your own moral compass, the story will deliver.