The Family with Two Front Doors

Written by Anna Ciddor
Review by Lindsay Mulholland

The reader is ushered into a home with the smells of baked bread and tasty home cooking. The Rabinovitch family is busy and foremost, happy. Pappa Rabinovitch is a rabbi, and his family of eleven lives in two apartments that give the book its title. Through them, we learn about traditional Jewish life in 1920s Poland.

When the eldest sister, Adina, is told that she will be married at 15 to a man chosen for her by a matchmaker, we see the anxieties of not only Adina but also of her younger siblings. This is a coming-of-age story seen through the eyes of the children, mainly ten-year old Nomi. The journey from the announcement to the wedding is filled with the tensions of meeting the potential husband and his family and uncertainty of the future.

An easy read and completely immersive, the novel is thoroughly researched and based on the true story of the author’s grandmother. The narrative is woven into a bustling routine of cooking and serving food. My mouth watered at the descriptions of cooking and the carefully organised routines, which create a sense of family solidarity.

There are hints at prejudices towards Jewish people, but, unlike many other novels, this is a story which chooses to focus on the warmth, traditions and the happiness of their family’s bonds before the horrors of war. It is both refreshing and affirming that against a backdrop of prejudice, with which we are now familiar, the Rabinovitches maintain their kindness, dignity and charitable nature. The reader is swept into the celebrations of the wedding and the emotions running throughout the book.

The glossary provides explanations for unfamiliar terms and so completes a short educational snapshot of a family life I would never have known. This book is well written, evoking the senses and emotion, and is definitely a recommended read.