The Two-Fam­i­ly House: A Novel

By – December 9, 2015

Who is your fam­i­ly? That ques­tion is the sim­mer­ing cen­ter of this nov­el, beg­ging the read­er to ques­tion so much of what he or she believes. Is it just your imme­di­ate fam­i­ly — your sib­lings and your par­ents? Is it more than that — your cousins, your sis­ters-in-law, your aunt on your mother’s side? And if your fam­i­ly lies to you, betrays you — are they still your fam­i­ly? And if not, what are they? Who do they become to you?

The Two-Fam­i­ly House by Lyn­da Cohen Loigman is an outsider’s look into a world filled with ten­sion and mis­trust — and most of all, secrets. As we wait for the char­ac­ters to fig­ure out secrets the read­er already knows, dif­fer­ent ques­tions become impor­tant. Who is the vil­lain of this sto­ry? Is it the sweet but over­bear­ing Helen, who always seems to know the right thing to do? Is it Rose, the qui­et moth­er of three daugh­ters who des­per­ate­ly wants a baby boy? Or is it Mort, the grudge-filled angry hus­band whom Rose can nev­er please?

The inter­est­ing thing is that there is no good answer to that ques­tion. Loigman makes a com­pelling case that there is a bit of bad in all of us — and that one can be both the hero and the vil­lain, if one lives long enough. Prob­lems that were thought long buried shove their way into the cen­ter of the char­ac­ters’ lives, no longer con­tent to remain hid­den. Unad­dressed resent­ments and fears turn hard and thick as the years pass, turn­ing lov­ing wives into bit­ter ene­mies, show­ing just how far peo­ple can go to attain what they believe they need to be happy.

A cur­so­ry glance at the sto­ry will yield two fam­i­lies, liv­ing side by side in the same house in Brook­lyn — one with three daugh­ters, one with four sons. The fam­i­lies live togeth­er in some­what har­mo­nious­ly until one bliz­zard-filled night, when every­thing changes. The bliz­zard that shuts down the city that piv­otal night is the only real wit­ness to the schism. But as the book pro­gress­es, the read­er learns that he was also a wit­ness. He too, was a bystander.

The Two-Fam­i­ly House will make you ques­tion and make you angry — but main­ly, it will make you rethink your own fam­i­ly his­to­ry, until you are left won­der­ing — how much do you know about your own past? And how sure are you that, with­out warn­ing, your world might not be blown apart?

Evie Saphire-Bern­stein is the pro­gram direc­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Chica­go with a B.A. in Eng­lish and a minor in Jew­ish Stud­ies. Before join­ing the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil team in 2015, she spent a year and a half work­ing with­in the Con­ser­v­a­tive Move­ment as the Net­work Liai­son for the Schechter Day School Net­work. She is a recent trans­plant to New York City, after liv­ing in Chica­go for most of her life. In her spare time, Evie is a writer and blogger.