This pedometer geek reader just finished 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, the debut novel of Marie-Helene Bertino. While this is her first novel, she has a debut story collection called Safe as Houses. This book was received as a Goodreads giveaway, and this is the extended review.
2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
by Marie-Helene Bertino
Published by Broadway Books, 2014
an imprint of Crown Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Random House, LLC
This novel could be described as a day in the life of…three interconnected people. First and foremost is nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari, an aspiring jazz singer. Second is Madeleine’s fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who will be reunited with a high school crush. Last, but not least, is Lorca, the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club, which may have to be closed forever unless money is found to save it. Lest it be thought that this reader has disclosed spoilers, all this (and more) can be deduced from reading the back cover blurb.
Starting from 7AM on Christmas Eve Eve (and I thought only my sons called it Christmas Eve Eve…see my alternate blog site about this subject at http://www.nbsmithblog.wordpress.com, but I digress) until the wee hours of Christmas Eve, the story is told about Madeleine’s dream of singing at The Cat’s Pajamas. This child is bright, brassy, and bold. As the novel opens, she is practicing her shimmy, smoking a cigarette before breakfast and heading off to school.
This story is not just about Madeleine, who has her share of troubles at both home and school, but it is also about her teacher Sarina and the owner Lorca. The novel follows them throughout the day. As the time ticks down to 2AM, the three of them will meet and be forever changed on this one magical night when dreams really can come true.
Told in chapters that are divided into minute by minute sections and through the perspectives of various characters, this story is delightful, lyrical, and upbeat despite a few moments of sadness. But don’t take this reader’s word for it; this novel was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014.
This reader looks forward to reading more by Bertino in the near future, and hopes it won’t be too long before her next novel is published. In the meantime, there is her short story collection to read.