Thursday, August 14, 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

Hi, everyone! Today I'm part of the TLC book tour for Marie-Helene Bertino's debut novel, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas.

It's Christmas Eve eve in Philly and Madeleine Altimari wants to sing! For just a moment, there's hope, Clare Kelly is in the hospital and Madeleine is the only other choice. But then Clare miraculously appears and Madeleine's dreams are dashed. And then she's expelled. No one seems to be in Madeleine's corner, with the exception of her teacher Miss Greene. It doesn't matter, though, Madeleine has discovered that her town has a jazz club - The Cat's Pajamas. 

That very morning owner Jack Lorca discovers that he's in danger of losing The Cat's Pajamas. With pretty hefty fines and only thirty days to address them, it seems there's no way the club can be saved. 

In one night, the night before Christmas Eve, all three will cross paths finally meeting at The Cat's Pajamas. But can the club's magic give each of them what they've been searching for?

On the one hand, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas is a charming tale. Madeleine is a precocious narrator - an almost orphan at almost ten years old. Her mother was an exotic dancer who passed away less than a year prior to when the story takes place. Madeleine's father has been overcome by grief and is as absent as he can be. Madeleine has no friends, with the exception of a local cafe owner (whose affection Madeleine does take for granted).

Meanwhile her teacher Sarina Greene has only just returned to the city in the wake of a divorce. A chance encounter leads her to a reunion dinner that puts her face to face with an old crush.

And then there's Jack Lorca. Jack who offered an out for a group of friends who were close to rock bottom. But now Jack himself has hit bottom. His girlfriend has left him, he doesn't connect with his son, and the club's various violations cost more than he can possibly raise in the timeframe given.

What I didn't love about Bertino's debut was the constant shifting of narrators - beyond just the three characters mentioned. It did clearly illustrate all the intersections and crossings the characters make throughout the story, but for once I have to admit it was a bit too many characters for my liking. It felt like - with the exception of Madeleine - I really didn't get to know anything about any of them. Certainly not enough to connect with them and their stories.

One could argue instead that the city itself is the main character. But again, if that's the case, I still didn't feel like I was getting enough of it to be fully captivated by the tale.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Marie-Helene and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Anonymous said...

LOVED your opening paragraph....the entire review, but especially the opening.
Glad to have found you, NMGB.