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Book Review: The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Written by: Katrina Crites

So we’re in Brooklyn in 1947 and we have two families who live in a two family house. In this case, it’s a brownstone with an apartment on the top floor and a separate apartment on the bottom floor.

On the top floor lives Abe, his wife Helen, and their four raucous sons. Helen is pregnant and they’d love to have a daughter but another boy would be just fine too; they’re not picky about it. Abe and Helen are happy people and enjoy spending time together as a family and also enjoy being social.

On the bottom floor we have Mort and his wife Rose along with their three daughters. Rose is pregnant at the same time as Helen and Mort is basically dying for a son. Mort is a miserable fella; wishes there weren’t so many girls in his house so he decides that if he’s a better father, husband and person in general, God will pony up a boy for him. He actually starts tallying up all the times he’s personable each day to make sure he stays on track with all the niceness he’d committed to. Cross your fingers he gets a son because Rose is beside herself with worry, wondering how he’ll react if they have a fourth daughter.

Abe and Mort are brothers and they run a family box manufacturing company together. Abe is the sales guy, a people person, and a good natured man all round. Mort is a numbers guy and he’s quite displeased that he’s in the box business. He wanted to go to college to study math but that dream was ripped from his hands when their father died unexpectedly and his mom and Abe convinced him to get to work at the box company. So Mort is bitter about more than just the number of girls in his house.

Helen and Rose are great friends. Being that they’re sisters-in-law and they live in the same house, they know absolutely everything about each other’s lives. They talk about everything, including their pregnancies and how they’re both hoping for a specific child out of the deal. 

Skip ahead a bit and both babies are born in Rose’s home on the same night during a wicked blizzard while Abe and Mort are out of town for business meetings. Helen and Rose were unable to make it to the hospital due to the storm but a midwife was able to make it to them and helped deliver both babies. When Rose’s oldest daughter enters the makeshift birthing room, she’s greeted by her brother Theodore and her niece Natalie. It’s a blizzard miracle:  each family got the child they wanted.

We then follow the two families as the babies grow older and we see how all the relationships morph through the 1960s. We watch the adult interactions transform while the older children come of age, go to college, get married and so on. There are lots of changes ahead along with a colossal family secret that somehow everyone is oblivious to. This is definitely a well written, interesting book and I certainly recommend it. 

Katrina Crites is a mother of one weird prepubescent kid, wife to a husband whom she adores except when he chews on ice. She has a love/hate relationship with running, adores winter and once thought overalls and Doc Martens were acceptable to wear in public. Lover of books, she lives in Olathe with her family of weirdos and knows if she didn't have the ice chewer, she'd be a crazy cat lady.

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