If you like stories with rough heroes, societal villains, and moral lessons on what to do after life throws you a curve ball, you can’t go wrong choosing 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas. Marie-Helene Bertino weaves together three narratives and four protagonists in this tale of a fateful Christmas Eve Eve in Philadelphia.
Lifehacker says you should read 50 pages before you DNF. 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas doesn’t require half of that. I knew, roughly 22 pages in, that it was going to be a delight. Describing her youngest lead, Bertino writes:
Madeleine has no friends: Not because she contains a tender grace that fifth graders detect and loathe. Not because she has a natural ability that points her starward, though she does. Madeleine has no friends because she is a jerk.
If I ever had any doubts about 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas‘ capacity to entertain, that quote smashed them.
Madeleine is Bertino’s shining star. Still reeling from the death of her singer-dancer mother, the 9-year-old Catholic schoolgirl has taken up a smoking habit and a bad attitude. After her chance to sing in front of an assembly is cut off by a prejudiced principal who calls her “the daughter of a prostitute,” Madeleine winds up expelled, and sets her sights on gaining entry to the legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas.
Of course, the club’s owner is trying his damnedest to stay on the right side of the law. He’s broken more than a few city ordinances, and now The Cat’s Pajamas is facing permanent closure as punishment for its next infraction — which letting in a 9-year-old, no matter how precocious, would be.
2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas saunters back and forth between these narratives and more. At times, it became difficult to organize the large cast, but never so much that I backtracked to find out who a particular character was.
Although it isn’t the best novel I’ve read this year, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas still gets a wholehearted recommendation from yours truly. It’s a quick read, a jazz book for a rainy day, that will appeal to Tales of the City fans and anyone who loves to hear, or sing, a few blue notes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.
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Image Credit: Andy Atzert