Tag Archives: hope

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino Title: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
Author: Marie-Helene Bertino
Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 978-0804140232
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Blog For Books/Publisher
Rating: 5/5

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.

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Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780007455331
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 252
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Off-late I had stopped reading Young Adult novels or anything close to in that genre or even children’s books for that matter. I did not find anything new in them. They were either set in magical worlds or in this world with fantastical creatures. Till I ended up reading, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate.

The book is for young adult and is based on a true story of a gorilla named Ivan. For me, the book did a lot. Perhaps books that you need do come into your life only at that time. There is no other way to this so-called selection – when books find you and want to be read by you.

“The One and Only Ivan” is about Ivan – a gorilla who has lived in a cage for almost twenty seven years of his life. He has had Bob – a dog for company and Stella – an aging elephant. Ivan is a silverback gorilla – the kind who has to protect his tribe and family and here he is in a circus mall on the highway on Exit 8. He is a gorilla who paints – finger paints at that and those paintings sell. He watches television in his cage. There is nothing else to do anyway.

Ivan is close to George the cleaner and his daughter Julia. Mack is the owner of this theme based mall. He is the man in-charge. Life goes on as usual. Till one day, Ruby, a young elephant makes an entry. Circumstances lead to Ivan making a promise – that of saving Ruby’s life. Of setting her free, of not making her become another addition to the mall, which becomes the mission of his life. That is when the story takes off.

The reader learns about how Ivan came to be here and about his life. There is Ruby’s life thrown in and so is Stella’s. I liked the story because it rang true. It is based on a true story. There are characters which are thrown in for effect, but the story is that of Ivan’s. Towards the end, I felt that Applegate was rushing with the story; however, given the plot and the structure, I let that pass. To me, “The One and Only Ivan” was a book which is sweet, full of life, hope, a great and unique friendship and above all about freedom, which we sometimes take too much for granted and need to learn its value. A read for times when you have given up on all hope.

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Rescue by Anita Shreve

A born storyteller, Shreve does a beautiful job in her description of a family in distress, a relationship crippled by a tragedy waiting in the wings. When Vermont EMT Peter Webster first sees Sheila Arsenault, she requires emergency assistance at the scene of an accident. Her blood alcohol signals trouble, but what young man in love reads the signs of impending disaster? Without much thought, Webster and Sheila embark on a love affair, for Webster a wonderful and unexpected gift, for Sheila a time out in a chaotic life. Pregnancy leads to marriage, baby Rowan the center of the couple’s lives until the attrition of time and too many sacrifices causes Sheila once again to seek solace in a bottle. A near-tragedy and the course of a Webster’s future is altered. Eighteen years later, a happy, well-adjusted daughter becomes a moody, angry teenager, Webster unable to communicate with the daughter who has become a stranger.

Shreve explores the territory of single parenthood and the loss of what might have been with her usual deft touch, capturing the difficult choices of a man desperate to protect his daughter from her mother’s excesses, his work as an EMT contrasting the dangers in a quiet Vermont town with the previous serenity of his home life. The real villain of the piece is, of course, Sheila’s alcoholism, the reason for the domestic disharmony, the marital arguments and a daughter’s resentment of her mother. Since Webster never really understands Sheila’s drinking, he has no tolerance for Rowan’s experimentation, as though good intentions could keep such a nightmare at bay. Alcoholism is the elephant in the living room, the source of all Webster’s grief and the threat to his confused daughter.


Whether writing historically or of contemporary life, Shreve has a facile touch, her prose fluid and believable as her characters face the unpredictability of choices that deliver hope and pain in equal measure. The responsible Webster, the tragic Sheila and the dangerously rebellious Rowan are vividly portrayed and culturally relevant. No monsters here, only vulnerable humans who stray from the bright promise of youth into the ragged detours that leads to forgiveness.

Rescue; Shreve, Anita; Little, Brown and Company; $26.99