It's hard to believe "The Two-Family House" is Lynda Cohen Loigman's debut novel. A richly textured, 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 baby-sitting. It would seem unlikely such proximity would allow the sharing of secrets. But they do — and that's the novel's pivot point.
As compelling as the story line are the characters that Loigman has drawn here. None is wholly likable nor entirely worthy of scorn. All are achingly human, tragically flawed and immediately recognizable. We watch them change and grow as the novel spans more than 20 years.
Rose is especially riveting with her inexplicable anger lingering 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, "The Two-Family House" is engrossing from beginning to end.