The Two-Family House

by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Book, 2016



Call number




New York : St. Martin's Press, 2016


"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. "Two families, both living in one house, drive an exquisitely written novel of love, alliances, the messiness of life and long buried secrets. Loigman's debut is just shatteringly wonderful and I can't wait to see what she does next." - Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You"No good deed goes unpunished. In a single, intensely charged moment, two women come to a private agreement meant to assure each other's happiness. But as Lynda Cohen Loigman deftly reveals, life is not so simple, especially when it involves two families, tightly intertwined. The Two-Family House is sympathetically observed and surely plotted all the way through to its deeply satisfying conclusion." - Christina Schwarz, author of Drowning Ruth (an Oprah's Book Club pick) and national bestseller The Edge of the Earth"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member CheriFaith
Love is the most complex of all emotions, in my humble opinion, and that is made abundantly evident in The Two-Family House. Lynda Cohen Loigman takes us on a masterful journey into the relationships of two brothers, their wives, children and extended family, which, on the surface seems to be very
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simple and matter-of-fact. And for a day or so after I finished reading it, I thought that it was just that - a simple novel about a family with issues.

But I was wrong. I couldn't stop thinking about those people - how they thought and felt, and how they behaved, as a result of one feeling: love. Each character in Loigman's creation goes through gut-wrenchingly difficult situations, either prior to when we meet them or throughout the time we are privy to their reality. Choices are made by parents and siblings that effect every generation named in the book as well as those that will follow. And despite the fact that so many of those choices are made out of love, painful difficulties ensue and lives are complicated and very often, damaged in major ways.

As it is in life, we are not aware of the circumstances that were someone's reality before we are born or before we encounter them and it is so in this book. The parents of Abe, Mort, Helen and Rose are not part of the cast of characters but they play a strategically impactful role in each character's story line. And as it is in life, one would like to think that all parent’s actions/decisions are unselfish and come from unconditional love for their children – but that is not universally true and again, in my opinion, definitely not the case in this book. And the way in which Lynda Cohen Loigman goes about revealing this to us has made me realize that this author has a very special gift – she removes you from wherever you are at the moment you begin The Two-Family House and takes you on a venture into exploring the truly complex nature of love.
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LibraryThing member JudithDCollins
A special thank you to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Cover Love.

Lynda Cohen Loigman delivers an impressive debut THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE, a multi-generational exploration of two complex Brooklyn families, in a lovely Brownstone-- rich in history,
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character, and love.

Two brothers, Mort and Abe buy a quaint Brooklyn brownstone. Abe and his family are upstairs and Mort’s downstairs. Busy running their father’s company, their lives are intertwined in many ways.

Rose and Mort have three daughters; however, he desires a son. Helen and Abe have four sons. She longs for a daughter.

The two wives bond, getting pregnant around the same time, and on one winter stormy night, the two go into labor. This night will change the course of their lives.

Choices, family secrets, mystery, intrigue, and strong emotions. From 1947 to 1970, we hear from different perspectives of individual family members, giving readers an inside view to the character's thoughts and actions.

From tragedy and heartbreak to love and forgiveness. The author takes you on a journey. It is not so much the destination, but the memorable journey, captured in this character-driven debut, brilliantly crafted.

I enjoyed the author’s note, the setting, and the inspiration behind the book. A tragedy resulting from a single misguided choice. Have pre-ordered the audio, narrated by Barrie Kreinik--should be fun!

Fans of Lisa Jewell, will enjoy the complex family and domestic suspense. Looking forward to more from this talented new author --a winner out of the gate.
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LibraryThing member Tasker
This is a very readable book with at least a dozen characters in two related families. The "hook" was set at the end of the first section so the remainder of the book is addictive. It would have been nice if several of the male siblings had their own "chapters".
LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 From the very beginning we are privy to what actually happens, so even though that is no surprise the magic in the book is how some of these characters change due to this event. Very memorable characters and it was interesting to see different ways this was handled. Many of these characters
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were just so darn endearing and the author has such a natural way of writing this was a pleasure to read.

The atmosphere of the novel was spot on for the fifties, the closeness of families unlike now when many of us live so far apart from our loved ones. I too lived in a two story when first married, my in laws living downstairs, so I easily identified with Rose and Helen. Many plusses in that type of arrangement but negatives as well. Can't imagine ever doing what these two women did but it made for interesting reading. The ending didn't sit as well with me, a little too pat, though other readers may not think so. Still a wonderful, well paced story and will definitely be reading this author again.

ARC from Netgalley.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
2.5 stars

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing or cadence of this novel. It is also very "clean" (no cursing, no sex scenes, no gore--my mom's kind of book, basically). And all that is fine too, because a good author should not rely on sex and violence to keep a book interesting.

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hangup with this novel is the "surprise". Though not stated outright, it is very obvious within the first 50 pages. And then the entire rest of the book is the reader waiting for the characters to figure it out. So, while the story could have been great, it was mostly frustrating.
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LibraryThing member Kris_Anderson
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman is the story about two brothers who share a family home. Mort, Rose, and their daughters live in the downstairs apartment. Abe, Helen, and their four boys live upstairs. The two brothers work together at Box Brothers. They make cardboard boxes for
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businesses. Helen and Rose end up pregnant at the same time with their babies due in January. Their children are born during a winter storm in Brooklyn in 1947. One woman wants a boy and the other a girl. They have the opportunity to get what they want and take it. See how this one choice (act) changes their lives and their families.

The Two-Family House is a slow starter. It is hard to get to keep reading this book, but I persisted. The novel was okay (satisfactory), but not wonderful. The story just plods along telling you what happens because of the decision these two women made (and one regrets it). The characters were flat. The Two-Family House is told in a first person point-of-view by various characters (which leads to confusion as it switches). The novel needed a little something (like maybe making it more of a secret) to make it more appealing. It needed more depth and interest. It reads more like a first or second draft, than a finished novel. I give The Two-Family House 2 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of The Two-Family House from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Two Family House, Linda Cohen Loigman, author; Barrie Kreinik, narrator
I loved this book, but I think you might have had to be there, you might have had to be Jewish, you might have had to be born in that era, and you probably should know something about Brooklyn, its two family houses and the
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Jewish ghetto and culture to really appreciate this book and identify with its characters and their way of life. If you were part of that era and that background, you can’t help but really enjoy the book’s walk down memory lane, apart and aside from the story itself.
The narrator may have overdone the Jewish inflection at times, but, otherwise, I think that she did a marvelous job of interpreting the attitudes and personalities of each of the characters, male and female, giving each an authentic voice, complete with the appropriate accent for each one, subtly showing that as they became upwardly mobile and successful, their Jewish intonation lessened, they moved out of Brooklyn into Long Island where the WASPS lived and their Barbra Streisand sound-alike accents diminished. Jews wanted to fit in, and they wanted to succeed. They wanted to achieve the American dream in spite of the ever present anti-Semitism.
I grew up in a two-family house in Brooklyn. I walked to the corner candy store to get a newspaper, to the local green grocer and vegetable store, the shoemaker, the pharmacy where the “druggist” subbed for the doctor in those days. I had relatives who lived so close by that my aunts and uncles were interchangeable with my own parents. My aunts shared a two family house around the corner from mine. There was always a safe space to go to if I found no one home. No door was ever locked. We had so many aunts and uncles and we often laughed at some while we praised others. Some were always baking but were so frugal they could serve 100 guests from a cake meant for 12 ( a bit of an exaggeration, lol). Some seemed cold and mean or teased us. Some brought us bubble gum every week with the groceries they delivered to us from their dairy store, and we loved them best. Some cheated each other, some were jealous of the success of others, some borrowed and didn’t return, but by and large, we were all one big, happy family. It was a far simpler life than today’s scene. Ethics and morality and rules were more clearly defined. There was a clear line between right and wrong, good and bad, that we were taught not to cross, while at the same time we might turn a blind eye and accept the wrongdoing of more successful relatives. Success was important, not so much how it was achieved. It was the culture. It was survival. The author caught its essence and put it on the page.
This story is basically about two brothers with entirely different personalities who work together in a family cardboard box business started by their father. It is about their wives who also have distinctly different personalities and it is about their children. It is about the house they all lived in and the way in which their relationships changed over the years because of certain choices, secrets and events. I totally recognized the sister-in-law’s and brother’s behavior, their customs, admonitions and expectations that were different for boys and girls. Girls got married, boys got jobs. Males were more desirable because they carried the family name into the future, females did not. Most mothers acquiesced to all of their husband's demands. Fathers made all of the decisions and rules. Mothers didn't defy them even if they didn't agree with them. Jewish guilt was then, and is today, alive and well. It was the way of life for Jewish families in those days. They were also on the move; they were aspiring to higher heights and were upwardly mobile. When they became more successful they actually did move to Long Island just like the Bermans. Often those moves disrupted families and petty jealousies rose up. Those who now had air conditioning wouldn't meet in the homes of those who didn't.
I loved the story for its nostalgia and the memories it evoked in me, even more than for its content, but I enjoyed that part too. I knew the streets and the neighborhoods. I loved the way the family interacted and the way the division of power was exposed. It accurately highlighted Jewish life in those days, expressing the devotion and loyalty of family members toward each other, showing their willingness to sacrifice their own needs in order to help someone in the family that was needier, in any way, while it also showed how grievances sometimes separated them.
Today, that lifestyle is essentially over. Families have dispersed far and wide and are not as close, in most cases, although those in family businesses do manage to sometimes stay in closer contact, but often with far more conflict. It was, in retrospect, a wonderful way of life, but if you didn't live it, the book might not have the same magical impact for you! For me, watching the family deal with what life threw at them was at the heart of the story and the heart of my memories.
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LibraryThing member JCGirl
A fantastic novel set from 1947 through 1970 in Brooklyn, New York focusing on two Jewish families living in a two-family house. The author Loigman beautifully shows the strengths and flaws of both main characters sister-in-laws Rose and Helen. They have a secret that has slowly unraveled their
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relationship and has now unintentional affecting the remaining members of the family. Between Rose and Helen's chapters, we are introduced to Mort (Rose's husband), Abe (Helen's husband), Natalie (Helen and Abe's daughter) and Judith the daughter of Mort and Rose each telling their side of the story as the years go along. Over the course of the novel author Loigman weaves artistically the remarkable aftermath the secret has had on both Rose and Helen and the others around them. As a first time book by the author, I see great success in her future with other extraordinary works. I am so looking forward to another novel by Loigman, but my hope is that it will continue with the life of Natalie from 1970 to present day.
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LibraryThing member Deborahblanchard
First of all I would like to thank NetGalley, St. Martin's Press and Lynda Cohen Loigman for allowing me the privilege of reading this book.
This book is incredibly well written and will keep you turning the pages until you are finished. It is about 2 brothers and their wives and families who live
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upstairs and downstairs in a two family house. These brothers are so different from each other, but their wives become fast friends. The characters are all deeply developed and you will love them all. It has rich family dynamics, good and bad alike. You know how families can be. There is a terrible secret that will rip friendships apart. The dialogue is realistic and true to life. This book is a definite page turner and flows well from beginning until the very end. It made me feel a wide range of emotions, from happiness to sadness and everything in between. I laughed and I cried. There is love and loss, love and hatred, there is a little of everything and a lot of amazing writing. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a fast read and one that you will not soon forget. It is hard to believe that this was her debut novel. Incredible read!
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LibraryThing member Olivermagnus
The Two Family House is about two brothers (Abe and Mort) and their families living side by side in the same house. One family has four sons and the other has three daughters. Their two wives, Helen and Rose, are especially close until one night during a blizzard when both give birth at the same
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time. A midwife delivers two healthy babies and now Helen has her first daughter and Rose finally succeeds in giving her husband the son he’s always wanted.

As we meet the characters we see how the events of that evening come into play. They all have secrets, which over the years lead to tragedy for them all. Problems bubble to the surface after the birth of Natalie and Teddy, and the relationship between Helen and Rose begins to change. Rose becomes withdrawn and takes little interest in her son, often leaving his care to Helen. Helen continues to take care of both children and Rose becomes even more withdrawn and unfriendly.

The novel travels through the years that follow, where we see the children grow up and how the various relationships all change. The story is told through chapters with alternating points of view, so we get chapters from the perspectives of Abe, Mort, Rose, Helen, and some of the children. I didn't have high expectations when I started this book and that may be why I enjoyed it so much. This is a great debut novel and I look forward to reading the next book Lynda Cohen Loigman writes.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
A dream Jewish family novel! Brother Abe (nice), wife Helen (sweet), and their four sons, live upstairs from brother Mort (miserable) and wife Rose (even more miserable from trying to please her horrible husband) and their three daughters. Both wives get pregnant again, at the same time, and both
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husbands are out of town during a blizzard when they go into labor. And, of course, since one wants a girl very badly and one needs a male to carry on the name - GUESS WHAT HAPPENS! Actually, the children of the families are more vivid characters than the adults, and happily (as rarely occurs in real life), people do change. This is a book your mother (but not only) would love, and I liked it too, finishing it in one very late sitting.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
This book brought me to tears more than once - a rare occurrence for me and despite the fact that the novel ended on a positive note. The secret that both holds the sisters-in-law Helen and Rose together and drives them apart is easily discernible, but its wide-ranging effects on their families
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makes this novel as compelling as it is compassionate. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member TerriS
This was SO good! It is about two families in 1947 in Brooklyn, NY, that live in the same house, one family upstairs and one family downstairs. The husbands are brothers and are in business together. Both wives become pregnant and are due at the same time. One family already has 4 boys & would like
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a girl this time, and the other family has 3 girls & would like a boy this time (the husband especially wants a boy & is putting pressure on the wife -- like that's going to do any good!). So on a snowy night in December, when both men are away on a business trip & no traffic is moving, both women go into labor at the same time. Just by luck, there is a midwife nearby, who delivered a baby at a neighbor's house earlier in the day, & because of the weather is unable to go home. So, she is able to come and deliver the two babies: one boy and one girl. And therein, begins the story of what happens to these two families, especially the two women, after this mysterious night. Nothing is said out loud about what happens, but the reader gets a pretty good idea of what is going on. And it is surprising how that night affects the rest of all of their lives.
This is a very well-written book with some excitement & mystery mixed in. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it!
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LibraryThing member Staciele
Abe and Mort are brothers who live in a two-family brownstone in Brooklyn with their wives. Abe and Helen live upstairs with their four sons and Mort and Rose live downstairs with their three daughters. Abe and Mort own the family business, Box Brothers, making boxes for companies. We meet them in
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1947, while Helen and Rose are struggling to maintain their sanity, spending days at home with their young children. The two are best friends and chat about their struggles raising the children, their marriages, and their responsibilities to their Jewish faith and extended families. You feel like the house is an idyllic setting with cousins living almost like siblings having two sets of parents within reach at any time. But, then you start to see the cracks. Even as the families seem to be intertwined, Rose tends to be a bit more resentful of Helen than Helen realizes. Mort is not the most appreciative husband and has been quite difficult to live with over the years. Helen is maybe a bit too perfect and overbearing. Can Abe really be that happy all the time?

One morning over coffee, the two women find out that both of them are pregnant and due at the same time. Even with all their pregnancies, they've never been pregnant together. Both women are shocked but hope, for different reasons, that this child will be the answer to their prayers. As a terrible blizzard hits the East Coast, the two women go into labor with their husbands away and make a decision that will fracture the relationship between the two women and their families forever.

This novel is the author's first but doesn't read as one. The story is character driven with each chapter told from that character's point of view. In the beginning, we hear from the brothers and their wives as they tell the stories from their perspective. Depending on the character, you will feel the anger, resentment, love, loss, bitterness, and forgiveness seep off the pages. There will be characters you will love and others you will want to hate. As we travel through the years, we get to hear from the children as they grow up and your perspective on the parents begin to change. You almost feel like you are sitting at the dinner table as the stories unfurl in front of you.

It's definitely a page-turner, especially if you like family dramas that take you through the generations. Every decision we make has consequences, good or bad. Reading this novel gives you a voyeuristic view of the ripple effect of one decision and whether telling the truth is worth the repercussions. As the novel ends, after spending twenty-three years with the family, you will be left satisfied, yet feeling the loss of a family you will miss spending time with, even if the ending is a bit too neat and tidy.

Favorite quotes:

"She pursed her lips tighter in an effort to stop it,
for if she couldn't she knew,
the truth would burn its way out of her
and escape from her mouth in one inexhaustible scream."

"Love is always forgiving."
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LibraryThing member linda.marsheells
Yeah, it was a a novel where i knew the ending even before being mid-way through the book, but it is soooo well written, and a nice easy read. Nothing heavy duty...i found no parts that dragged, and actually reveled in life in the 40's and 50's in the northeast. One negative is that i felt the
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ending was rushed....but still a solid 4 stars.

A two-family house bought by two brothers. Living side by side with wives who become friends and kids that grow up as brothers and sisters. AND THEN! There is always a BUT or THEN that gives the story a twist and The Two Family House is no disappointment. AND THEN changes the course of lives for way too long for this family.
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LibraryThing member BookDiva85
This book makes me question how much one would do for love. I appreciated the story being told from the different family members. The dynamic of how one incident affected each person in a different way allowed the reader to sympathize with each one. At first, I was angry with Rose and her attitude
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and mannerisms but then I saw it from her side. I didn't like Mort very much but getting more insight from him and seeing him develop changed that. At the end of the day, secrets will make and break a family even one so intertwined. Relationships will change. They'll grow or fall apart. The authors writing style allows for the reader to understand the story. Not too simplistic but not too complex. Makes for a very easy read.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
I'm just sorry I've already read her other book! Even though you could "guess" what's happening, this story was appealing in so many ways. Loved the way Loigman developed her characters over time.
LibraryThing member Slevyr26
Thank you to Goodreads for the opportunity to read this book in advance.

Out of 5, I'd say my rating is a very impressed 3.8, nearly 4. But then I think, the story was really well done, it deserves at least a 4 out of 5. But then I think, no, my review should be based on my personal resonance with
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the book and the story within, and so I go back to my 3.8.

I guess it all comes down to the fact that I didn't really feel any deep connection to any of the characters. It isn't that I didn't like them, I'm just not sure I will ever think about them again. Maybe Teddy, as his life was tragic from start to finish, and the tragic ones tend to stick with me.

For me, the whole story was a little on the nose. There wasn't anything left up to the reader to figure out, which, normally I love and appreciate not having an open interpretation to a story or a to an ending. But here, it was entirely spelled out for me. There weren't any hints or clues necessary, and for some reason this sat funny with me. I don't know why, honestly. The side panel of the dust jacket makes it seem like I'm about to enter a quiet whodunnit, a small mystery, but really, none of it is a mystery.

What I did find most interesting was the constant changing in the dynamic between the two Berman families. Unfortunately, at the heart of both of the families is Mort. If it hadn't been for Mort's closed-off (read: terrible) personality, the babies would have been born with no complications, and the Bermans' wouldn't have had to suffer so deeply on so many levels. I saw Mort's growth (again, it was perfectly laid out for the reader, this is not something you will have to piece together on your own) but I didn't appreciate it. His stubborn, nasty way of interacting with his wife, his daughters, his nephews and his brother and his sister-in-law for so many years, for a reason that could have been rectified, only to turn it all around when it hardly matters, I just didn't think it was enough.
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LibraryThing member VhartPowers
This story was so familiar it was like dejavu reading it. I knew the characters, I knew the plot, given away on page 68. So what's the point in continuing the story? I wondered the same thing. But I kept reading because I knew I knew this story. How is that possible if it was just published? So
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So the beginning of the book the characters are pretty flat.
There's Abe and his wife Helen with four boys. Abe's brother Mort comes off as slightly autistic. Very stiff and awkward socially. He holds a grudge against his brother for having to quit college and go into the family business. However, if he really wanted to continue he could have found a way. He was acting the victim.
Mort's wife is Rose and they have three daughters. None of them can please Mort in any way.
During a blizzard the husbands are out of town. The wives make a decision that will affect them and cause the break up of their friendship. It was bound to happen. You can only live a lie for so long after all.
In the beginning the characters are conveyed one way and then after the lie they are conveyed a different way. Did they change? Did the circumstances make them change? Do certain people handle stress better than others? Why do some people stick by their family and friends and others throw in the towel and run away?
After a tragic event the characters begin to fill out and become more developed.
Each chapter is told by a different character.
It's a quick and easy read. Take it to the pool, beach, or park. You don't have to give it your undivided attention to follow what is happening. But I do like that it makes the reader think of the character of people and how circumstances affect them or vice versa; how the person reacts to circumstances.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Excellent story with complicated characters. A good read.
LibraryThing member brinnafrieds
The story follows 2 families that live & work together in a 2-family house in Brooklyn. Rose & Helen each have their fourth child on the same night, and the story follows what happened that night. Told in the perspective of several different family members.
LibraryThing member Bookish59
Love this novel; hate at least one of the characters. That should tell you how good it is.

Pulls you in from the start.

Abe and Mort are brothers but so different. Abe is a mensch, and a loving husband and father. And his wife Helen is smart, optimistic and caring.

Mort is not like his brother at
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all. He is furious at his mother for a decision she made years ago. Not processing those feelings he takes out his anger on his wife, Rose and their daughters. Nothing Rose or the girls do is good enough. Thinking to appease him Helen and Rose make a quick life-changing decision of their own, setting into motion consequences no one could have predicted.

Realistic, absorbing, great dialogue, pacing, and incredibly well-written.

Read, definitely read this book.
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LibraryThing member Lisa5127
I won't give away the major plot line, but it was very easy to guess based on the back cover and the first few pages. So, that made something that could have been a mind-blowing secret a dead giveaway. But, even knowing the basic arc of the story from the start, the journey was a good one. I just
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really wish the author hadn't made it so obvious so quickly.
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LibraryThing member Olivermagnus
The Two Family House is about two brothers (Abe and Mort) and their families living side by side in the same house. One family has four sons and the other has three daughters. Their two wives, Helen and Rose, are especially close until one night during a blizzard when both give birth at the same
Show More
time. A midwife delivers two healthy babies and now Helen has her first daughter and Rose finally succeeds in giving her husband the son he’s always wanted.

As we meet the characters we see how the events of that evening come into play. They all have secrets, which over the years lead to tragedy for them all. Problems bubble to the surface after the birth of Natalie and Teddy, and the relationship between Helen and Rose begins to change. Rose becomes withdrawn and takes little interest in her son, often leaving his care to Helen. Helen continues to take care of both children and Rose becomes even more withdrawn and unfriendly.

The novel travels through the years that follow, where we see the children grow up and how the various relationships all change. The story is told through chapters with alternating points of view, so we get chapters from the perspectives of Abe, Mort, Rose, Helen, and some of the children. I didn't have high expectations when I started this book and that may be why I enjoyed it so much. This is a great debut novel and I look forward to reading the next book Lynda Cohen Loigman writes.
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LibraryThing member rmarcin
This book is the story of two women, married to two brothers, who live together in a two-family house. Rose has 3 daughters and Helen has 3 sons. They each become pregnant and hope that their child is the opposite sex of what they already have. In a blizzard, with their husbands away from home, the
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women both give birth on the same night, to a boy and a girl.
What happens next is a secret that the women carry with them for many years, through tragedy and heartache and it breaks their friendship.
I knew from p.2 what they did, and therefore, it didn't keep me wondering. I was just waiting for when the secret would be revealed. I was glad to see how some of the characters changed, but was disappointed in others. I thought some of the writing was very plain and unsophisticated.
It was a quick read, but it wasn't spectacular.
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Original publication date



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