Publishers Weekly (review date 6 July 1998)
SOURCE: A review of The Same Embrace, in Publishers Weekly, July 6, 1998, p. 49.
[In the following review, the critic praises Lowenthal's command of dialogue and his descriptive powers.]The shadow of the Holocaust looms over this affecting first novel, a tale of identical twins who must come to terms with their peculiar bond and its limits. Jacob Rosenbaum, openly gay and mourning the recent death of his best friend, travels from Boston to Israel in order to persuade his brother Jonathan, newly and fervently orthodox, to leave the yeshiva where he is studying and return to the U.S. More than religious and sexual differences keep the brothers apart. Both need to overcome the legacy of their stern rabbi grandfather, who pitted them against each other in wrestling contests when they were boys (matches that Jacob always won). Jacob's struggle to reconcile with his brother is as much an account of a family history of estrangement and secrets as it is about the contradictions of being twins: two people, physically alike, so close they dream the same dreams, who simultaneously long to assert their individuality and return to their comforting singular identity. Lowenthal has a keen eye for details: a warm office has a scent "like the custardy smell of cotton towels removed from a spinning dryer." A beautiful boy has a "peach pit of muscle" at the corner of his jaw. He avoids the cliches of a coming-out novel, and his assured dialogue, smooth weaving of the narrative back and forth in time, and layering of cultural, sexual and religious themes coalesce into an impressively crafted, moving debut.