2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

4.0 7
by Marie-Helene Bertino
     
 

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A sparkling, enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters 
 
Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about toSee more details below

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Overview

A sparkling, enchanting and staggeringly original debut novel about one day in the lives of three unforgettable characters 
 
Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/26/2014
Madeleine Altimari is in the fifth grade and wants to be a jazz singer. Despite her mother’s recent death and her father’s descent into an opaque and private mourning, she is trying to keep her fingers snapping and her brassy voice at the ready. Sarina Greene is Madeleine’s teacher and, after a recent divorce and a return to her hometown of Philadelphia, she is trying very hard to keep the faith that something worthwhile will come of it all. These two make for companionable allies, and it’s easy to share in the affection they feel for one another. Tougher to accept—or at least keep track of—is the mosaic of many, many other characters to whom Sarina and Madeleine find themselves linked. Although it’s to Bertino’s (Safe as Houses) credit that she has invented, sketched, connected, and geographically located such an elaborate cast, and in the process established what does genuinely feel like an old neighborhood at Christmastime, remembering who’s who is often a challenge. While the jazzy intentions are noble, the toe-tapping, bebopping tone Bertino aims for feels forced—a melody we can see Madeleine shimmying along to, but not ever quite hear for ourselves. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-29
Bertino, who won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for her collection Safe as Houses (2012), aims to pull heartstrings in her first novel, which is set in Philadelphia and follows a cast of cute/quirky characters hour by hour as their lives converge two days before Christmas.Fifth-grader Madeleine Altimari is pretty much raising herself; her father has retreated into his bedroom in a drug-induced stupor to numb his grief since the death of Madeleine’s mother—a strip-club dancer and free spirit beloved by all who knew her. Madeleine is lonely, precocious and sassy, her tough exterior hiding her own heartache. Mrs. Santiago, the warmhearted widow who runs the neighborhood cafe, provides breakfast, lunch and grandmotherly affection, but Madeleine has no friends at her Catholic elementary school. Her solace is singing—she’s a natural who yearns to be a jazz singer. Madeleine’s day begins badly when Principal Randles, who resented Madeleine’s mother even when they were kids, first deprives Madeleine of a solo at the school’s morning Mass and later unfairly expels her. (A school in session on Dec. 23 and a principal expelling a child without some kind of parent meeting both hint at less-than-realistic storytelling.) Then Madeleine learns there's a jazz club in Philadelphia and decides to find it. Madeleine’s teacher, Sarina Greene, who also frequents Mrs. Santiago’s cafe, feels terrible about Madeleine’s expulsion, but what can she do? Besides, she’s coping with her own crisis: Having returned to Philly after a divorce, she's been invited to a dinner party with old friends, including a former boyfriend. Meanwhile, across town, the police warn Jack Lorca that he'll have to close his jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, if there are any more code violations. But he’s promised to let his musically talented, teenage (i.e. underage) son play in the house band tonight. As the hours pass, the various storylines thread together.While some will find this seasonal sweetness charming, others will find it maddeningly contrived.
From the Publisher
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"Delightful...[This] story has it all."—Time Out New York

“Inventive, gorgeously written and unforgettable."--NPR

“Enchanting…Rich and real…The book feels lively, with the jostling energy of…well, a club.”—The Millions

"The story of a lonely 9-year-old girl’s quest to perform at a Philadelphia jazz club on Christmas Eve rolls along much like a piece of music — different story lines wind and unwind like musical themes, and these stories are all threaded together with a consistently energized brio like one of the tunes played at the club giving the book its title. Each sentence, as well, is composed with a poetic ear; no line is wasted. That’s rare.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"Exposes both the beauty and burden of urban living…A clever tale of missed opportunities and seized ones, Cat’s Pajamas’ characters mirror the story’s inspiration. Like jazz, they’re unruly, improvised, and endlessly impassioned.”–Austin Chronicle
 
“The novel’s true genius, though, is [Bertino's] wry insight into her delightful characters…crafted by a writer who shows that less is more, and that perfectly worded less is magic.” -- The Philadelphia City Paper

“[2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas is] funny and sad and full of a lyricism that is as rare as it is appreciated.” -- The L Magazine

“[2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas] is the most charming thing I have ever read in my entire existence on this planet…Come for the beauty and heartbreak, stay for the funny one-liners.” - Book Riot

“The purely original construction of an irresistible story… Readers will fall in love…This assured, moving, brilliantly funny tale of music, mourning, and off-kilter romance entrances with its extraordinarily inventive language. Be prepared for a quick reread of this novel to try to answer the question: How did Bertino do that?” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A torch song to the power of jazz, determination and serendipity….Bertino's carefully crafted verbal cadence gives Philadelphia a thumping heartbeat that captures the feel of the jazz medium perfectly… Funny and wise, this first novel will leave readers with smiles on their faces and a song in their hearts--something with a little swing to it, naturally.”—Shelf Awareness

"Vibrant...Bertino's characters are spot-on, and her special brand of humor brings each one to life in this fresh and charming tale."—Booklist

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas won me over heart and soul. With Madeleine Altimari, a nine year old aspiring jazz singer with a wonderful talent for cursing, Bertino has created one of the most winning and wonderful characters I've met in a long time. Read this book to see a debut author doing something really special, crafting a story where human kindness meets up with an inhospitable world and real magic happens in the aftermath.” – Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang 

"Marie-Helene Bertino bops across Philadelphia like an alleycat on the run, energetic and wild. Her sentences are sharp and surprising, and her wonderful story is full of heart. There is funny poetry in the sound of loneliness, and Bertino has found it." —Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers and Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures 

“Clever, charming and full of life…Like the best jazz, 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is a marvel of the unexpected, a buoyant, swinging tale of interwoven destinies that Marie-Helene Bertino tells with verve, wit, and warmth. I loved it.” —Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is as winning and funny as the nine year-old at its heart, and I love it for the way its protagonists turn their back on their city’s cruddiness and their own losses to proclaim their happiness to be in this world.  They offer wryness as the antidote to self-pity and benevolence as the antidote to isolation, and they demonstrate how even the most forsaken can turn themselves into a warm, dry house.” —Jim Shepard, National Book Award shortlisted author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway
 
2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas is a recipe box full of wonders. With a wildly entertaining cast of characters, Marie-Helene Bertino soars through her native city of Philadelphia, zeroing in with great beauty, wit, skill and love on the exact moments in time that change our lives forever.” —Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief  

"Once you enter the imagination of Marie-Helene Bertino—a world as weird as it is warm—you will not want to leave. Each sentence is a pop-up box: first delightful for its sweet music, then profound with the shock of truth. This is a dazzling book."—Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas is beautiful, alive, and moving. Marie-Helene Bertino has a mesmerizing way with words… [This is] one of those books that stays in your head long after you’ve finished it, like a song.”—Sara Crowe, author of Campari for Breakfast
 
“Sympathetic characters and an evocative setting combine in a story that takes some most unexpected turns. It’s thrilling to see bravery reminiscent of short story-telling translate into a novel. The dénouement had me in tears, in stitches and then doing a double take at an ending that seems to come out of nowhere.”—Claire King, author of The Night Rainbow

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
★ 07/01/2014
Almost ten years old, Madeleine Altimari is a self-described "poor motherless girl in old stockings." Often hungry but pragmatically compensating for her grieving father's neglect, she's a mouthy old soul who doesn't play nice with others. What Madeleine does do is live and breathe jazz. On Christmas Eve, she is determined, at all costs, to sing at a run-down Philadelphia jazz bar called the Cat's Pajamas. Her teacher Sarina Greene whose love for an old flame is unrequited (or so she thinks) is also drawn to the Cat's Pajamas. Lorca, the bar's owner, has just been informed that his bar will be shut down unless he comes up with an impossible sum of money to cover his countless citations and bring the place up to code. That these threads converge is a given. The surprise is in the purely original construction of an irresistible story that takes place in just 24 hours. VERDICT By the fourth sentence of the first page, readers will fall in love with debut author Bertino; delighted adoration of Madeleine will take another half page. This assured, moving, brilliantly funny tale of music, mourning, and off-kilter romance entrances with its extraordinarily inventive language. Be prepared for a quick reread of this novel to try to answer the question: How did Bertino do that? [See Prepub Alert, 2/3/14.]—Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804140232
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/05/2014
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
123,855
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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