2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (5 out of 5)
This book was exactly what I needed to read. Quirky, quick, and funny. There’s a lot of heart beating in this story, and most of it with nine-year old Madeleine Altamari. Madeleine’s a little firecracker. She’s recently lost her mom, and her father is swallowed up by her grief, so for all intents and purposes, she’s parent-less at the moment. She’s the butt of jokes at school, and one can only take so much rejection before one begins to rebel, even at the tender age of nine. The Eve of Christmas Eve looks to bring her many gifts she wasn’t planning on, and the same goes for the other members of this book. Most of the action takes place around the floundering jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas. Lorca, the owner of the jazz club, is nailed and given $30,000 worth of citations. If he doesn’t raise the money, the club, and those who play a part in its being, goes bye-bye. No one or nothing is going anywhere until the 24-hours in this day are played out- in memorable and hilarious fashion- over the course of this book. Does Madeleine’s determination to sing at the club win out? Do her prissy and bratty classmates see her for the heartbroken little cuss she really is, and let her be? Does Lorca find a way to save his club? Does he win his estranged wife Louisa back? Does his son Alex get his wish and get to play at the club, despite Len (the basically useless, jerk policeman who writes up all the citations that put the club at risk) putting a strict “no performances to minors” order on the club? Do the star-crossed lovers find a way to be together? Does Pedro the dog find his happy ending, in a neighborhood where his elusive female dog girlfriend is now dwelling (yes, even a bit of a love story for the pooch.) Does this end happily or does the club close? You have to read to find out. And you won’t be sorry you have to read it.
Madeleine is a revelation. I haven’t seen a kid with this much spunk in literature since Evelyn in Laura Moriarty’s The Center of Everything. She thinks nothing of using foul language, smoking her deceased mom’s cigarettes, flipping off her errant classmates, and speaking back to the school principal, who has it out for her because Madeleine’s mom bested her in school many years before. Despite her spunk, you can feel Madeleine’s heart breaking as she cannot seem to draw her father out of his cesspool of grief. There are several scenes in the book where you are tearing up reading about her sadness. There are more scenes, however, where you are laughing aloud at her hijinks. There are no shortage. You hope so wildly for Madeleine to conquer her fears, her sadness, and take The Cat’s Pajamas by storm. All of your supporting characters are memorable in their individuality, and there really aren’t any bad guys. There are a few, but you realize that they aren’t bad guys as much as they are just doing their jobs. There isn’t a lot of this book that won’t warm the cockles of your heart, and make you hope that there’s a return to Madeleine’s world sometime in the future. Definitely a warm, funny, wonderful book.
*I received this book from “BLOGGING FOR BOOKS” in return for a honest review.*