This debut novel from Lynda Cohen Loigman had me hooked right from the beginning. Although she’s a first time novelist, she writes about these complex characters and the in-depth exploration into familial relationships like a seasoned pro.
Set in mid-twentieth century New York, the families of two brothers share a home in Brooklyn. The brothers, Mort and Abe, could not be more different. However, together they run the company, Box Brothers, left to them by their father successfully. Their wives Helen and Rose are best friends and a lot like sisters. They raise their children together, Rose’s three girls and Helen’s three boys, and enjoy the closeness and comfort that sharing the house provides.
When Helen and Rose become pregnant at the same time, they have very different reactions. Rose is immediately worried about the reaction her closed off and distant husband Mort will have to the news. Mort has always longed for a son, and with each daughter the couple had, it became more and more apparent to Rose that he blamed her for not being able to provide him with one. However, when she does tell him, she is shocked to find that her husband is thrilled about the new baby and she is delighted when he begins to dote on her and give her the attention and affection she has longed for.
Helen is overjoyed when she discovers that she’s pregnant, and so is her husband Abe. Helen feels happy for herself and is hopeful of the prospect of possibly having a daughter. Despite her joy, she worries for Rose, who desperately wants to please her husband and is terrified that Mort will distance himself completely from her if she has another daughter.
One winter night at the end of the women’s pregnancies, Rose begins to go into labor just as a blizzard hits the city. The quickly falling snow disables any form of transportation to a hospital, and with Mort and Abe out of town on business, the two women are left to deliver the baby with the help of a midwife who is luckily able to dredge through the snow from a few houses away. Just as the midwife arrives, Helen’s water breaks and it becomes apparent that both women will be delivering their babies on the same night. Despite the challenges of the night, Rose gives birth to baby boy Teddy, and Helen gives birth to baby girl Natalie. Everything seems to have worked out perfectly, and Mort is ecstatic about the birth of his son, Helen has the daughter she has longed for, and everyone is happy. However, things are not always what they seem.
What transpires that night forever changes the lives of these two women and starts to unravel what had been a seemingly unbreakable bond between them. As time passes and things happen, the women grow completely apart and Rose does all she can to completely push Helen away. Both brothers and their children wonder what has caused the deep rift between the two women, and try to maintain their close family relationships despite it.
It’s really a great book, told in alternating perspectives of the women, the brothers, and some of the children. The author paints such a vivid picture of these women and their relationship, and how it ultimately effects everyone in their families’ lives. The book explores just how far some people are willing to go to for someone they love, and the toll that a secret can take on a family, and many more elements of family, friendship, and life.
The Two Family House is an incredibly well told story that grasps your attention from the first page and does not let go until the last. I fully recommend it and can’t wait to read more from Lynda Cohen Loigman.