Published by Crown on August 5. 2014
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.
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Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.
As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 Am At The Cat's Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.
2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas is a day in the life of three characters in Philadelphia: Madeleine, a 9-year-old aspiring singer who is mourning her mother’s death; her fifth-grade teacher Sarina, recently divorced and back in town, hoping to reconnect with people from her past; and Lorca, owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, a legendary jazz club in danger of closing.
Madeleine’s story is what kept me reading. She’s got a lot of spunk, a lot of grit. Her father is so crippled with grief that he is barely able to function. She endures rejection at school from both her classmates and her principal. Yet she pushes ahead, determined to find The Cat’s Pajamas and make her debut. You can’t help but fall in love with this kid.
Bertino’s writing is absolutely ravishing, just breathtaking. There are times when the rhythm of her words is downright musical, as smooth as listening to John Coltrane.
However, I found myself wanting more of a focus on Madeleine. I liked how the three characters came together, but that wasn’t enough. Madeleine’s story was so compelling, it made me wish Sarina and Lorca were minor characters instead. Unfortunately, they didn’t hold my interest.
I went into 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas with high expectations, but I felt it lacked some of the elements that captivated me in Bertino’s collection of short stories, Safe as Houses, which I read last year. There aren’t as many strange, fantastical moments in this debut novel; it is much more subdued. So when something extraordinary occurs at the end, something that normally would have me holding my breath in awe, it didn’t feel all that magical. It just felt out of place. Huge letdown.
Although this fell flat for me, the things that worked, I loved. I anticipate feeling just as enthusiastic about Bertino’s future works as I was for this one.