I must admit that The Two-Family House surprised me in the end. It started off quite slowly. Initially, I found the writing to be clinical and I thought I knew just where it was going when I was 9% through. This all changed dramatically at about the 60% mark.
Rose and Helen are sisters-in-law living in the same Brooklyn brownstone. They have always been very close; more like sisters than in-laws. During a blizzard, while their husbands are out of town on a family business matter, they both go into labor. Travel to the hospital is impossible. Cab companies aren’t even answering the phone. Helen can’t persuade the ambulance to come for them. Luckily, there is a midwife who is only a few blocks away after having attended another delivery. She comes to their rescue and they each delivery a healthy baby; Helen’s 5th and Roses 4th.
As time passes, the close friendship between Rose and Helen shifts to a relationship full of jealousy and resentment. Rose has become somewhat unstable. Helen does everything she can to mend the relationship to no avail. Ultimately, I found it a little sad that this was so. After all, the decision that led to the breakdown of their relationship was made by both of them. At the same time, I thought this was one of the most realistic aspects of the book as it demonstrated how two people can react so differently to the same set of circumstances. At times I thought it was Rose’s character that made her behave in a way I didn’t care for. At other times, I thought it was some sort of response to guilt, depression, or other type of mental illness. Perhaps it was all of those. The bottom line is that we never really know exactly why people are the way there.
There were other themes running through this book as well. As we watch Rose’s husband, Mort, evolve through the years, we are reminded of the importance of our interactions with family and friends and keeping perspective on what’s really important in life.
While there are too many characters to comment on individually, Rose’s daughter Judith certainly deserves a mention. In her, Lynda Cohen Loigman gives us a girl, who turns into a woman, of substance. If I had to be one of the character’s in this book or choose one to be my best friend, I’d want it to be her.
Overall, I think this is a very solid first novel.
My rating: 3.75 stars
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.