A debut novel explores the intertwining lives of two Brooklyn families.
Mort and Abe are brothers, and when they buy a Brooklyn brownstone together, their wives become fast friends. Abe’s family lives upstairs, and Mort’s lives downstairs. The families share work (Mort and Abe run their father’s company together), play, and many meals. They also share certain frustrations. Mort’s wife, Rose, bears three daughters, but Mort is desperate for a son and treats Rose cruelly in the meantime. On the other hand, Helen, who is married to the more gregarious Abe, has had four sons but longs for a daughter: she’s lonely in her all-male household. Then Rose and Helen get pregnant at the same time. One winter night when their husbands are away and a blizzard has shut down New York, they both go into labor. That night, they make a decision that alters the course of their families’ lives. Afterward, of course, nothing is the same. Loigman’s debut novel is concerned with robust sentiments: hope, betrayal, yearning, disappointment. But she undermines those sentiments with banal details, like the color of a kitchen table, while skimping on details about her characters’ inner lives. Loigman’s writing doesn’t quite support the emotional weight that the narrative requires of it; frequently, the prose buckles beneath the load. Intensity is expressed with exclamation points, which do much to raise the volume of the prose but little to heighten its potency or fervor. During one key scene, characters shout back and forth at each other: “ ‘That’s a terrible thing to say!’ ‘Don’t you dare raise your voice to me!’ ‘Hey—quit yelling at her!’ ” That Loigman mistakes clamor for vigor is unfortunate. She had the beginnings of a powerful work here.
This compelling novel strains beneath its own aspirations and never quite comes to life.