"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino - book review

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas
Author:  Marie-Helene Bertino
Publisher:  Crown
Published:  August 5, 2014
Pages:  272
Genre:  Fiction
Source:  I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS begins on a quiet morning in a Philadelphia apartment the day before Christmas Eve, where we meet the precocious and smart-mouthed nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari.  Madeleine’s mother has recently died, and her father is still lost in his grief. Meanwhile, Madeleine finds solace in music and aspires to become a jazz singer. Just two days shy of her tenth birthday, she is about to have the most remarkable day of her life.
After facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine decides today is the day to find Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, and make her debut. On the same day, Madeleine’s fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who has moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with her high school love. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Jack Lorca discovers that his beloved venue may close be closed due to financial woes by the end of the night. As we follow these three lost souls over the course of twenty-four hours, we also meet a cast of unique and brilliant characters who surround them – from the warm-hearted cafe owner Mrs. Santiago to Melissa, the former “snake lady” exotic dancer who might be Lorca’s last hope for love.  With sharp wit and irrepressible spirit, Marie-Helene Bertino turns Philadelphia into a magical place where anything can happen.
A sparkling and completely original novel, 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS will capture your heart and make you root for Madeleine, Sarina, Lorca, and those whose lives they touch around them.
My Thoughts:

I love the raised black velvet feel of the lettering on the light turquoise cover of 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas.  At 272 pages, it's not a long read but it was slow going getting into this novel.

Nine-year-old Madeleine is quite foul-mouthed which is alarming to me for a child so young.  She gets kicked out of school by her principal for slugging another kid in the nose; granted he was making fun of her and she was standing up for herself.  Young Madeleine's mother passed away earlier in the year and her father spends most of his time in his room, so deep is his grief.  Madeleine is one of those children whom the neighbourhood seems to raise.  She has one wish, and that is to sing jazz.  As luck would have it, it looks like she will get that wish.

Sure I rooted for Madeleine because at first I felt sorry for her more than anything.  I tend to root for the underdog and love to see them overcome their challenges.  I'm a sucker for that in fiction or real life.  Understand she has a rough time of things and only one friend, the one who taught her all the filthy language she knows.  Madeleine doesn't care to make any others.

She's a little girl against the world, trying to make her wish come true despite the odds.  The Cat's Pajamas may be her answer but it's owner has troubles of his own, as does Madeleine's favourite school teacher.  Their stories are intertwined and come together on the eve of Christmas Eve, the perfect time of year for a little magic.

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas is a saucy bit of entertainment with a terrific title that promises a good time.  For many, this novel will be a nice change with its current day dreams and an older era feel. It's precocious, feisty and jazzy; just like its protagonist.

Author's website: http://mariehelenebertino.com

Meet the author:

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the story collection Safe as Houses, which won the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Prize and The Pushcart Prize, and was long-listed for The Story Prize and The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York’s Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story.
Connect with Marie-Helene Bertino

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