Review: 2am at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

257391482am at the Cat’s Pajamas
by Marie-Helene Bertino

Published: October 27th, 2015 by Broadway Books Genre: contemporary, fiction, magical realism Source/Format: blogging for books; paperback; 288 pages Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.48

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Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of 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 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud. —goodreads

You can’t say you know a city unless you know three ways to everywhere.

There is only one way I could describe how I felt reading 2am at the Cat’s Pajamas. It felt like floating. It’s probably the closest I could get to feeling like Casper the friendly ghost or the Ghost of Reading’s Now (that was the most clever I could get right now, sue me).

2am at the Cat’s Pajamas follows the lives of a handful of people, as well as a few passersby, from The City of Brotherly Love. More specifically, it follows a single day, Christmas Eve Ever, in the lives of Madeleine, a nine year old with a dead mother and a fucked up father who dreams of being a famous singer, Sarina, Madeleine’s teacher, former “goth” kid and self proclaimed outsider and Lorca, not so attentive father or boyfriend and owner of the famous Cat’s Pajamas jazz club. Over the roughly twenty-four hours of the book we witness real life. There are the few ups and disastrous downs of being an adolescent, the hopeful yet insecure moments of love in adulthood and the realization of what happens when everything around you seems like it’s falling apart.

I read in a few reviews that many people found the way the story jumps from perspective of one person to another rapidly throughout the book as confusing and hard to follow, but I found that to be the contrary. I loved every bit of how this book was written. It was beautiful the way that Bertino was able to encompass true human emotion and behavior through these characters. I found myself becoming very attached to each of their quirks and flaws. Even more so, I loved the small glimpses into the minds and lives of the people who connected each character to each other.

My favorite characters were the members of the house band of the Cat’s Pajamas, the Cubanistas. Though, in truth, there was sadly not a whole lot of time spent in their perspective, they had so much character. From Max, who is a “liar’s liar” and will tell any story to gain a woman’s attention, to Gus and his persistence in building his model airplane and Sonny, the ever loyal guitarist. Though they were minor character’s in Lorca’s world they only magnified the type of person Lorca was. They embodied each of his flaws and triumphs as a father, a son, and a club owner.

The ending of the book is hard to explain without giving much away, but I found it magical. Bertino does a wonderful job simultaneously wrapping up the day’s events while leaving the reader satisfied with each character’s conclusion. It left me hopeful of each of their futures, even though at the same time it feels like I’ve only just met all of them.

2am at the Cat’s Pajamas is a book that will stick with me for a very long time and, you know? I’m okay with that.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

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