REVIEW: THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE, BY LYNDA COHEN LOIGMAN

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The two Berman brothers, Abe and Mort, began sharing the control of their father’s company after his death. Mort was not as enthusiastic about having to leave college to join the company, but at least he had the number crunching job, which utilized his mathematical abilities, while Abe was the people person.

Their home lives were very connected as well. They shared a two-family house in Brooklyn…they got a great deal on the price of it, and it suited their family lives.

Living on the top floor with his wife Helen and their four sons, Abe was happy. Helen enjoyed the close proximity to Mort’s wife Rose, and the two became good friends. Mort and Rose had three daughters. Mort was often grumpy and annoyed at the noise Abe’s sons made as they clumped around upstairs. Was he just envious of Abe’s sons, while he only had daughters?

Then the two women got pregnant again, and their due dates were within days of each other.

One night when a blizzard cut off transportation and closed down ambulances, Rose went into labor. And then Helen’s water broke. They eventually discovered a midwife nearby…and she came to save the day.

Rose’s oldest daughter Judith, who was twelve at the time, was helping out. But something happened that night that changed the connections between the two women, and altered all of their lives forever.

The Two-Family House was set in the 1940s, and the roles the characters played in their lives and in their marriages were typical of the times. What would the events of that stormy night do to each of the mothers, and how would everything that had happened impact their marriages, their children, and their futures?

I enjoyed how the passage of time, with alternating narrators, revealed the effects on each character. I was especially fond of Judith, who was bright and had a sense of something having gone awry that night. Would her connection with Natalie, who was Abe and Helen’s daughter, cause her to take a closer look at events?

The story traversed time, from the 1940s to the 1970s. I like the saga that unfolded, showing us the strengths and the challenges of each family member. A memorable read. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE DAUGHTER, BY JANE SHEMILT

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When fifteen-year-old Naomi Malcolm failed to come home after her school play one night in Bristol, England, her parents, Jen and Ted Malcolm, both doctors, firmly believe that she will come home on her own. But they do call in the police after she has been missing for several hours.

The year is 2009, and as we follow the journey of the family, friends, and police, the answers seem to grow even more elusive.

For Naomi had her secrets, and it would be a long time before they are all revealed. And even fourteen months later, when Jen is living alone in the cottage in Dorset that she had inherited from her mother, we are still pulling back the layers of who Naomi was and what motivated her. In fact, Ted himself has been keeping a number of secrets, some of which he revealed early on, but the more significant ones were slow in coming out.

Ed and Theo, the twin brothers who were seventeen, have their own issues, and we gradually learn what is behind their anger and frustration.

Would Ted and Jen each have to face their own culpability in how events unfolded? Could their busy schedules and their trust in what their children told them have led to everything that happened?

It is not surprising that Ted and Jen would separate, nor is it a shock to discover that some secrets could have led to a resolution sooner if the characters had been forthright.

Jen is our first person narrator, and she tells the story, going backward and forward in time, from 2009 to 2011. In the end, just when I thought all the secrets were out, there is another shocking reveal. I enjoyed The Daughter: A Novel, but the sweeping narrative sometimes felt repetitive and sluggish. 4.5 stars.