2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS by Marie-Helene Bertino

I am still here! Yes, it has been almost 2 weeks since I posted on EDIWTB.  That’s because I haven’t been reading. I blame baseball, which has taken over all my reading time. My team is holding on by a thread, but I am watching all their games, and then all the other games, and I just haven’t had much time left over to blog or read.

But I did finish 2 AM at the Cat’s Pajamas, so finally, a new post!

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino, is a quirky book about one night – Christmas Eve Eve – in Philadelphia. I thought it was going to be set in the 50s or 60s, based on the cover (which I love, btw) and the jazz club setting, but it’s not – it is set in the present, with references to Facebook and cell phones and dating profiles. There are basically three subplots that are threaded together in the story: 1) Madeleine, a 10 year-old whose mother died of cancer and who has a rebellious streak and a penchant for cursing, gets expelled from school and wants to sing onstage at a jazz club; 2) Sarina, a recently-divorced woman in her late 20s is invited to a party at the home of one of her old high school friends, where she encounters a man for whom she has harbored feelings for many years; and 3) Lorca, the owner of famed Philadelphia jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, risks losing the club due to several municipal violations, including musicians living in a back room at the club. Then there are a host of tertiary characters who pop up in intermittent chapters throughout the book.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas is told in an unusual style. Each chapter takes place at a different time of day, and the narration rotates among the storylines. Bertino’s writing is more poetry than prose at times, and there are some jarring non-sequiturs and bizarre stretches of dialogue and actions that kept me from really getting into the book. I enjoyed some moments of real power and insight – especially in the Sarina chapters – but there were long passages that were confusing and boring too.  I didn’t feel any connection to Lorca or to Mrs. Santiago, the woman who cares for Madeleine, and they appeared too often for my liking. There were also random characters who popped in and out, only adding to the choppy nature of the book.

I wanted to like 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, but it was kind of a chore to get through. I listened to it on audio, which didn’t help. The narrator was loud, almost shouting, and her Lorca and Madeleine accents were grating. I don’t really recommend the audio – maybe the book would have gone faster and been more enjoyable in print. I found my mind wandering a lot during some of the more random sections, which doesn’t happen often with audiobooks.

Some people love this book, so give it a chance if it sounds like your type of read.