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2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas Hardcover – August 5, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804140235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804140232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Selected as one of NPR's 2014 Great Reads

"Delightful...[This] story has it all."—Time Out New York

“Consistently funny…[And] its characters are worth rooting for.”--NPR

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

“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

About the Author

Marie Helene-Bertino is the author of Safe as Houses, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York's Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story. A Philadelphia native, she currently lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Enjoyable read from start to finish.
Beth Vasil
I felt like someone tore out the last chapter and I would never get to find out what happened to everyone….
Celeste
The story was quirky, an easy read, and very enjoyable.
PT Cruiser

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Walker VINE VOICE on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a unique book about what happens to several characters over the course of one day and night, Christmas Eve Eve, as they make their way through Philadelphia to a jazz club called The Cat's Pajamas. The City of Philadelphia gets top billing along with Madeleine, a nine-year old jazz singer; her teacher Miss Greene; Miss Greene's high school crush, Ben; Lorca, the club owner; Alex, his son; Pedro, the dog; Mrs. Santana, his owner; a snarky cockroach, Clarence; and so on and on.

I'll be honest. I'm still not sure what to think about the book. I alternated between delighted (with the spare, quirky prose, the detailed settings, and authentic characters) and frustrated (with the authentic characters) and occasionally confused (with the random fantastical element) while reading it. I stayed up finishing it later than I planned (a good recommendation), but I couldn't put a conclusion into words when I finished. That's not a bad thing unless, like me, you like to put things like answers and endings in their place.

I'm glad I read it, and I'll be recommending it to my reader friends. I hope I get a taker because I want to discuss it with someone.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Auntie Annie VINE VOICE on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book reads like a prose poem. It is quirky. It is surrealistic. It is about despair. It is about hope. It is about cockroaches. It is about jazz. It takes place on Christmas Eve Eve, and details the lives of various misfits in a small area of Philadelphia--from nine year old motherless Madeline who wants only to sing to Ben who simply will never understand women, from Lorca the nightclub owner losing his club to Pedro the dog, from the repression of Princlpal Randels to the musical genius of Alex. This book does not tell it straight; it tells it circular. Read it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Marie-Helene Bertino has a unique style of writing that pulled me into her novel quickly. Her very descriptive, sometimes off-beat language left no doubt as to the places, people and emotions she writes about in this entertaining novel. There are several interesting characters including Madeline, the 9 year old daughter of a deceased jazz club singer and father who can't get beyond her mother's death, Lorca the owner of a once great Philadelphia jazz club, the band that plays there and his son, Alex. There is also Sarina Grenne, Madeline's teacher, Ben, her high school crush, Mrs. Santiago who owns the cafe and looks out for Madeline and several others. Bertino tells different parts of the story from each of their perspectives.

The story was quirky, an easy read, and very enjoyable. Her characters were anything but ordinary and I developed a closeness to each of them. It reminded me that what we see of people from the outside is seldom what they are really like, and unless we really get to know them, it's impossible to understand how really fascinating and unique they are. Few people are "normal". Bertino does an excellent job of showing this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Delaney VINE VOICE on July 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's a quirky read. Sometimes I like a book with neat corners and edges. Sometimes I like a book with soul ripping realism. And sometimes I like a quirky lighthearted read that makes me want to talk about it. I like it, and I can't quite put my finger on it. I do enjoy stories that are told from several perspectives and then you can watch how the stories interact. The characters are charming. The plot is delightful. Find a friend, read it together and discuss this book for hours over a great big glass of red wine with some light jazz music playing in the background.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Marie-Helene Bertino's "2 A. M. at The Cat's Pajamas" introduces readers to a beguiling cast of characters associated with the "The Cat's Pajamas", a once great Philadelphia jazz club in a literary style that may remind some readers of Paul Auster's best work. It's two days before Christmas and nearly ten-year old Madeline Altimari is a precocious would-be jazz singer who struggles to adhere to her late mother's advice in dealing with the trials and tribulations of her life, made more difficult by unexpected difficulties at school. Meanwhile her fifth-grade teacher Sarina Greene dreads the prospect of attending a party that night where she'll run across an old high school love, fearing that they may renew their long-lost romantic relationship. And at the jazz club itself, its owner sees the proverbial handwriting on the wall, wondering how he'll raise $30,000 or else be forced to close it, putting an end to its near legendary status as an important venue for traditional jazz music. Bertino does a fine job with her elegant prose and very good storytelling skills in crafting a tale that will interest not only those who are diehard fans of jazz.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nitty's Mom TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
2 A.M at the Cat's Pajamas is a quick moving, fast talking novel with a delightful cast of quirky characters. I do not use the word quirky lightly. The book takes place on Christmas Eve over a 24 hour period, in which the author is able to deliver a multitude of well written 3 dimensional characters and some clever, at times over the top, plot-lines.

Madeline is a 9 year old girl who has recently lost her mother to illness and is left to care for her depressed father. Her dream is to sing at the Cat's Pajamas. Madeline's teacher, Miss Greene has recently moved back to Philadelphia after a divorce. While shopping she reluctantly accepts a dinner invitation from a friend, when she learns that a high-school crush will be in attendance. The owner of the Cat's Pajamas, Jack Francis Lorca "considered two of the finest ears in jazz" is hit with a $30,000 fine to pay or his legendary jazz club will be closed. These are only some of the characters that we meet throughout this deceptively sweet novel. Make no mistake, this book has some important points to make, as all of the characters we meet are in search of second chances. It reminded me a little of the Wizard of Oz, with the the Cat's Pajamas (Emerald City) and each character making the journey for their own intrinsic reasons. There is even an adorable dog named Pedro.

Totally original, perhaps not for everyone, as the writing style can initially take some getting use to. I applaud the originality as there is absolutely nothing stereotypical about this novel.
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