Sunday, July 20, 2014

'2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas'

Strange little stories with a remarkable protagonist seems to be the norm in my reading world right now.  But after I recently finished a story with three protagonists, it was like manna from heaven.  

Of course, following the journey of three interesting characters could be a tad confusing, but Marie-Helene Bertino, author of '2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas', carefully led me along the way with not only humor and grace, but also a unique writing style.

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, brilliant nine-year-old who is an aspiring jazz singer.  Still mourning the recent death of her mother, a former singer, her goal in life is to sneak into the legendary jazz club, The Cat's Pajamas, and sing her heart out on the eve of Christmas Eve. Ignored by mean-spirited classmates and facing rejection at her school, Madeleine develops a tough exterior. 

On the same day, her new recently-divorced teacher, Sarina Greene, has moved back to Philadelphia and is nervously preparing to attend a dinner party which will reunite her with a former high school boyfriend.

And Lorca, the owner of The Cat's Pajamas, discovers that he might have to close his beloved club unless he can come up with $30,000 to save it.

The steps these characters take to face their difficulties are something to behold.  Although the story is full of loss and pain, humor abounds.  I eagerly turned the pages, curious about the outcome, hoping that Madeleine finally realized her own dream.  I wished Sarina the utmost satisfaction, and as for Lorca....well, he broke a few rules, despite the fact that he tried his best to enforce them.

As I wrote earlier, Bertino's style is quite unique, which made this one unforgettable story. Her mastery at creating compelling characters is a gift, indeed.
Author Marie-Helene Bertino

But this is primarily Madeleine's journey.  You can almost see the wheels spinning, the plans made, her boldness leaving you almost breathless.  She's stubborn and difficult (and isn't afraid to use a lot of profanity), but very brave.

And it was her bravery that made me question my own goals. We all suffer losses, but some people (even fictional ones) can help us take that first step toward happiness.

Especially via a strange little story.

'2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas', will be released by Crown Publishers in August 2014.  Book Hog thanks the publishers for the opportunity to read this wonderful story!

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