Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night. When the storm passes, everyone seems to have gotten what they wanted, but the truth is not that simple. The consequences of that night, of one misguided choice, shape the course of the families – friendships unravel, marriages change and even the sacred bonds between mothers and children are tested. No one knows why, and no one can stop it, but everyone’s lives have been shaped by that evening.
From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, longing, love, and mystery.
“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…. 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….engrossing from beginning to end.”
―The Associated Press (As seen on ABCNews.com, The Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune, Daily Mail, The Daily Journal)
Q & A with Lynda:
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
I have been asked this question more times than I can count, and I think it’s because The Two-Family House is truly a family story. The characters are people many readers seem to recognize from their own families. Whenever anyone tells me that they have a relative who is exactly like Abe or Mort, it always makes me smile.
The truth is, the people in the novel are not based on anyone from my actual family. My mom did grow up in a two-family house in Brooklyn with cousins living downstairs, but in that house, all six children were girls. Helen is not my grandmother and Rose is not my great-aunt. The men are not based on men I have known in real life. But still, certain anecdotes and even objects from my own life have made their way into the pages of the story.
In the novel, Helen talks with her brother Sol about weekly childhood visits with their grandmother. Their grandmother came once a week to babysit, and when she came, she always brought a small chocolate cake with a candied cherry on top. In real life, my grandmother really did visit every Saturday afternoon with a small chocolate cake for my brother and me. Every week, my brother and I fought over that cherry, and every week, my grandmother insisted that my brother should have it.
When I was young, my grandmother spoke openly about how much she adored my brother. He was the first grandchild, after all, and a boy. Hers was a preference that stemmed from both cultural influences and the fact that she had three daughters and no sons. My grandmother’s feelings were part of the inspiration for The Two-Family House, and because of that, it felt right to include the anecdote about the cake in the story.
In terms of real life objects that I mention in the novel, the most significant one is Rose’s recipe box. In one of the early chapters of the book, Rose is sitting at her table with a recipe box, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Because Mort is spending the night away on business, Rose is free to stray from the family’s weekly menu schedule that Mort has insisted on since the beginning of their marriage. The recipe box belonged to Rose’s mother and she describes it as her mother’s “touchstone.” Rose talks to the recipe box as if her mother was inside it, “like a genie in a bottle.”
When my own mother passed away nine years ago, I took her recipe box home with me in my suitcase. To this day, it is one of my most treasured possessions because, for me, it represents the true essence of my mother. It is precious to me in a way that I could never fully explain, and I suppose that is part of why I included it in my novel – I could describe Rose’s feelings for her mother’s recipe box much more easily than I could ever describe my own.
I believe that all writers draw from their own lives in their work, even when the stories they write are not based on real life experiences. For me, this is certainly true. The fact that I have chosen to include pieces of my real life in my novel has made me feel slightly more vulnerable about sharing it with the world, but it has also made the process of sharing it more meaningful.
Some info about Lynda:
Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is now a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives with her husband and two children in New York.
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