On Christmas Eve Eve, Madeleine Altimari is two days away from being ten. Unlike most other little girls, she’s not too excited about it. After her mother’s death, her father has shut himself in his bedroom, leaving Madeleine plenty of time to practice her singing. The only thing in the world that Madeleine wants is to sing jazz like her mother. Learning of a jazz club in town, she sets her mind to making her on-stage debut. Madeleine’s recently divorced, fifth grade teacher, Sarina Greene, is going to attend a dinner party where she will be seeing several old friends and an old flame. Owner of Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, Lorca, is faced with the prospect of closing down the club unless he can come up with $30,000. This novel follows Madeleine, Sarina, and Lorca (and multiple charming secondary characters) from 7:10 A.M Christmas Eve Eve through 6:30 A.M. Christmas Eve. Their lives will intersect and all be changed in a single evening.
Madeleine has a pretty rough day at school. A chance is given to sing and snatched away at the last moment, she is embarrassed by the school nurse, and is subject to her classmates’ taunts. Rather than crying or feeling sorry for herself, she cusses out the principal and punches a bully. Spunky, brazen, smart-aleck Madeleine Altimari is a mix of Ramona Quimby and a New Jersey housewife. She says “I got yelled at by everyone today. I want to sing and no one will let me.” I already loved her opinionated potty mouth but this declaration made my heart break and I wanted her to get the opportunity to sing. I would compare the layering of characters to movies such as “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day.” The cast is large and the connections become clear as the novel progresses. The themes of desire, dreams, and music drive the novel along and author Marie-Helene Bertino gives each character such depth that I found them fully formed in my mind. Sarina and Lorca each have great storylines but Madeleine is the star of the story. While the novel is wonderful as a whole, it is worth reading simply for her sassy thoughts and responses to her daily life.
About the Author:
Marie-Helene Bertino’s collection of short stories SAFE AS HOUSES received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award and the Pushcart Prize and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and The Story Prize. She was an Emerging Writer Fellow at NYC’s Center for Fiction and teaches at NYU, Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, The Center for Fiction, and One Story’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop, where she was the Associate Editor for 6 years. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook and currently works as a biographer of people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Originally from Philadelphia, she now lives in Brooklyn. 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas is her debut novel.
2 A.M at the Cat’s Pajamas
Pub Date August 5 2014
Genre: Fiction with a touch of magic realism.
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