This is one of those books that stun you. They take you by surprise and you do not really know what got into you. You do know that you loved reading it and cannot stop talking about it to people. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a book that demands your attention and once it has it, it does not let go, till you have finished the book.
I remember reading about this book somewhere and I so wanted to read it and when I did, I fell in love with it. Marie-Helene Bertino writes with such simplicity and makes you want to believe in all things nice and hopeful. Her characters are despairing, but never let go of hope and what it takes to be alive. There are odd moments in the book and yet what they only do is uplift you.
“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a magical story. It is a story of three lives, colliding by coincidence; chance, by serendipity on Christmas Eve eve. The action takes place in Philadelphia. We all know how a city becomes a character in so many books and it is the same in this one as well.
There is a nine-year old Madeleine, who has recently lost her mother. She is clueless in the world. She smokes (yes for a nine-year old, I was taken aback but then got in the groove of the book). She wants to sing. She is obsessed with Jazz. At the end of the spectrum is her teacher, Sarina, who is recently divorced and something is soon going to happen to her. The third character is Lorca, the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas – a legendary jazz club, which is soon going to slip away from him. These three characters come together to discover love, life, happiness and hope.
The characters that meet each other in the course of a day and night are marvelous. There are other characters as well besides these three that add to the plot and drive the story forward. What struck me the most about the book is the honest voice in which it is written. The book is told from the third-person perspective and rounds up every emotion and scene very well. Bertino sets the story in such a way that everything is told or not told till 2 A.M, which in more than one way is the crux of the book.
“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a charming, little book that makes you reinstate hope. As these three go through the day, and you with them as a reader, your spirits are lifted, you smile and laugh with them and feel a sense of melancholy when they are sad. Sometimes, it is also necessary for a book to have those brilliant fantastical moments (like Mark Helprin’s books do) to reinforce the magic of living. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a perfect book for the time when you are down and about.