Thursday 28 February 2019

The Two-Family House

The Two-family House
The Two-Family House
By Lynda Cohen Loigman

It’s 1947, and Brooklyn housewives Helen and Rose share many things.  Married to brothers Abe and Mort, the two women are friends and confidantes.  Both families even live in the same house – Abe, Helen and their four boys live upstairs, while Rose, Mort and their three girls live downstairs.  When Helen and Rose discover they are both pregnant at the same time, they are thrilled.

But the two brothers couldn’t be more different.  Abe is big-hearted and gregarious, always showing his family affection and love.  Mort is sullen and bitter, and blames Rose for not giving him a son.

As the pregnancies progress, Helen finds herself wishing for a daughter – someone who would eventually share thoughts and feelings with her.  She doesn’t see this happening with her rambunctious boys.

Rose, however, finds herself desperate for a boy.  She feels that having a son is the only way to win back her husband’s favour.  Her anxiety level grows higher with each passing day.

One winter night, with both men out of town, a blizzard strikes their Brooklyn home.  Both women go into labour.  Streets are impassable and the ambulance will not come.  Helen and Rose contact a local midwife.  With the older children minding the younger ones upstairs, two babies are born.

That night, something changes between Helen and Rose.  Although the two women share a deeper bond than ever, Rose begins to pull away from Helen.  Helen’s daughter, Natalie and Rose’s son, Teddy, are joyous additions to the family.  Natalie and Teddy, in fact, become close friends.  But Rose’s unhappiness is palpable and manifests itself through neglect of her children and her relationships.  Over time, her children become alienated from her, often preferring Helen’s company.  The two-family honeymoon is over.

Time goes on and the families drift apart.  Luckily, Teddy and Natalie continue their friendship and link the families together.  Only Judith, Rose’s eldest daughter, is old enough to remember her mother as she once was and the happy days of family solidarity.  Judith always wonders, what triggered this divide?

Can family secrets be maintained forever?  Should they be?  As the children become adults, the two women at the heart of each family must decide.

Told from the perspective of different family members, The Two-Family House spans a generation.  Poignant and readable, this family saga examines both sorrows and regrets, and the love shared over many years.


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