The Two-Family House, by Linda Cohen Loigman*****

TheTwoFamilyHouse What an amazing book! Once I began reading Loigman’s masterful historical fiction, my other galleys waited, meek and neglected until I was done with this one. Thank you twice, first to Net Galley and second to St. Martin’s Press for giving me a DRC in exchange for this honest review.

I have seldom seen such brilliant character development in a novel. Although Loigman is proficient with setting, it’s really the characters that drive this book. It begins just after World War II. Mort and Rose live downstairs with their three daughters; Abe, Mort’s brother, lives upstairs with his wife Helen and their sons. Though Rose and Helen are not biologically related, they are emotionally closer than many sisters. And what a great thing it is when they both find themselves pregnant, just when they believed they were finished having babies! Mort has wanted a son forever, and his resentment has begun to damage his marriage. He isn’t abusive, but he is cold toward Rose. When she says another baby is on the way, he becomes almost sentimental, making a deal with the cosmos that if he treats his wife well enough, she will bear him a little boy.

Helen loves her sons of course, but she sure would like a daughter; just one. Please.

And then during a blizzard, both women go into labor. Nobody can get to a hospital, and no doctor can reach their home. Instead, a midwife makes her way into the bedroom where both of them labor. Two babies are born.

This story grabbed me by the front of my shirt and wouldn’t let me go. Where I ordinarily make remarks about pacing, setting, and characterization, my e-reader is instead full of indignant comments. First I have become annoyed with Rose, and jot down notes about the things she says and does as if I were gossiping; eventually my remarks are made to Rose herself, because all of these people are so real to me, and she is behaving so badly. The author’s development of her characters, primarily Rose, Mort, and Judith, is so subtle and so sly that at first I wonder if I am imagining the change; eventually I just want to grab Rose and yank her into the kitchen for a good talking-to.

Maybe you think I have said too much, but there is oh so much more. I never saw the ending coming until we were there, and it was so cleverly done. When the story was over, I felt bereaved in a way I had not felt since I read The Goldfinch.

Those that love excellent historical fiction, strong literary fiction, good family stories or all three have to read this book. I gobbled it up early and had to sit on my hands for awhile prior to reviewing; a number of other books have passed between then and this writing, but The Two-Family House still stands out in my mind as having met excellence and surpassed it.

This book is available for purchase March 8. Highly recommended!

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