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The Two-Family House


The Two-Family House

Families can be great sources of strength and support, but they can also create a firestorm of controversy that rocks the foundation of its members’ world. Lynda Cohen Loigman has decided to tackle the ways that families grow together and apart, and why, in her thoughtful and provocative debut novel, THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE.

Set in postwar Brooklyn, it is a story of generations of one clan in which a deep-seated secret consistently threatens to ruin the family harmony. Although the big reveal doesn’t come until the end, Loigman sets up a steady stream of hints that helped me figure out the secret well before the characters did. In some ways, this increased the tension of the novel’s trajectory but also kept my interest focused on characters who weren’t the protagonists. Nonetheless, THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE takes you on a tour of dysfunction and deep and abiding love in a way that reflects the entanglements that come with a close-living family.

"...thoughtful and provocative... Written as a beach read, this very literary tale actually gives readers so much more than it may seem at first."

There are two brothers, Abe and Mort. Not only are they related, they go into business together, and their wives become close like sisters as they share a two-family house in Brooklyn. Helen has four crazy kids, all of whom are boys, and wishes she had a daughter to share her life with. Rose has three daughters and wishes she could give her husband the son --- the heir --- he so desperately wants. The tension between the brothers regarding these unfulfilled desires makes these family men turn against each other at different difficult times in their lives. Mort especially can’t see the forest for the trees or appreciate the beautiful family he and Rose have created together. 

Suddenly, Helen and Rose get pregnant at the same time. They are both hoping fervently to fix their family tensions by giving birth to the “right” kind of baby. In the midst of a blizzard, in a histrionic, catastrophic sequence, the women give birth simultaneously. When the storm is over, they each have the correct gender baby they were hoping for. Or do they? The family goes through several generations before the big secret is revealed. 

In this day of gender experimentation, investigation and flexibility, it seems fitting that a story about gender preference for kids reads almost like a fairy tale. There was a time when people wanted boys to continue their blood line? Their heritage? There was a time when people only wanted girls for whatever reason? Considering Kimye, and John Legend and Chrissy Teigen planning their IVF so they get one gender or another, maybe this isn’t such a far-fetched idea --- just an old-world one that has taken on a new hue. 

That’s only one part of the book.

The experience of families who remain close to their culture and to each other in the face of changing times is one that anybody can relate to, for better or worse. So THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE and its examination of generations of a family with their own high expectations to live up to resonates on several different levels. Written as a beach read, this very literary tale actually gives readers so much more than it may seem at first.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on March 11, 2016

The Two-Family House
by Lynda Cohen Loigman

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250118166
  • ISBN-13: 9781250118165