Before we get into the meat of this review, let me clarify up front that this book is not Christian fiction (my usual reviews). While I like to diversify my reading and pepper the Christian fiction with some mainstream, I know there are readers out there who will only read one genre.
And now that that’s out of the way…what do a nine-year-old girl who lost her mother, a recently divorced teacher, and the owner of a struggling jazz club have in common? That’s the question Marie-Helen Bertino explores in her debut novel, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas.
In Philadelphia, on Christmas Eve Eve, nine-year-old Madeline Altimari has dreams and a recipe box. Her dreams are big and the recipe box is filled with advise from her mother who’d passed away a year before. Madeline admits to not being a nice girl, not having friends. When she faces down one of her classmates and gets expelled from school, she learns of something she’d never heard before: a jazz club in her very own city. Determine to get there and get on stage, she embarks on an exciting journey.
Madeline’s teacher, Sarina Greene has just moved pack to Philly after divorcing her husband. When she gets invited to a party in which her high school crush is rumored to attend. But she knows he’s taken, there’s not use wishing for something that cannot be.
Across town, Lorca is handed the news that his club will be shut down if he can’t comply with city guidelines and codes (most of which he, his employees, and his customers break nightly). Can he save his beloved club?
Madeline is both aggravating and endearing at the same time. While she’s brusque and harsh with many people around her, I found in her the capacity to love and the desire to be loved. Sarina is someone I felt bad for. Life has dealt her a bad hand and I rooted for something to go right in her life. And Lorca and his crew added both a sense of family (although Lorca’s true family is falling apart) and a little bit of comic relief. OK, Madeline adds plenty of that last one herself.
The narrative was unique and enjoyable as the characters tromp across the city of Philadelphia. And the author does a fantastic job of tying all of the stories together at the end of the book.
***Blogging for Books and Broadway Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.