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Book review: The Two-Family House is an engrossing tale of family secrets

A richly textured and complex, The Two Family House is an entirely believable story, it draws us inexorably into the lives of two brothers and their families in 1950s Brooklyn, New York.
The Two-Family House, by Lynda Cohen Loigman. St. Martin’s Press via AP
The Two-Family House, by Lynda Cohen Loigman. St. Martin’s Press via AP

It’s hard to believe that The Two-Family House is Lynda Cohen Loigman’s debut novel. A richly textured and complex, yet entirely believable story, it draws us inexorably into the lives of two brothers and their families in 1950s Brooklyn, New York.

Mort and his brother, Abe, and their wives, Rose and Helen, live in a duplex. With nine children between them, they share meals, playtime, homework and babysitting. It would seem unlikely that such proximity would allow the keeping of secrets. But it does – and that’s the novel’s pivotal point.

As compelling as the storyline are the characters that Loigman has drawn. None is wholly likeable nor entirely worthy of scorn. All are achingly human, tragically flawed and immediately recognisable. We watch them change and grow as the novel spans more than 20 years.

Rose is especially riveting, with her inexplicable anger simmering just beneath the surface: “Rose felt the anger brewing inside her push its way out of her chest and into her throat. She could feel it, twisting and bending, like smoke on her vocal chords, ready to burn its way up to her tongue.”

Despite its darkness, or perhaps because of it, The Two-­Family House is engrossing from beginning to end.

• The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman is available on Amazon

* Kim Curtis / Associated Press

Updated: April 2, 2016 04:00 AM

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