Adult · Literary Fiction · music · review · Review Copy

Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino


Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Crown
Source: Publisher

The city is in a perpetual state of not being quite ready to talk about it. Instead it lashes its wind against the banners of the art museum. Moody light changes down Market, the cars bitch toward City Hall. Puddles yearn toward the sewers. The unrequited city dreams up conspiracies and keeps it buildings low to the ground.

This book is wonderful, beautiful and all things a book should be. It makes you feel, for that motherless girl who is victimized by her peers and discriminated against by the adults who are supposed to be on her side. It makes you sad for the teacher who has loved and lost and is trying to love again knowing very well that she is loving the wrong person. The jazz club owner whose life is unraveling so rapidly, the adolescent who only wants his dad’s approval but that seems impossible. Even the man who lost his wife and is unable to cope with the reality of it and so, fails his little daughter. Mrs. Santiago, who keeps working with her dead husband’s portrait for company, essentially raising the little girl whose father has checked out.

The little girl’s yearning to sing. The dog, Pedro, and his little eccentricities, who is as much a character as any human being in the book.

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas takes place over the course of one day. And what a day. It is linearly told (in the context of time) and narrated from many perspectives. Bertino’s characters are so vividly rendered and though some storylines clutch at your heartstrings, there is not an ounce of maudlin sentimentality to the novel. The writing is superlative. The ending liberating.

Even if you don’t usually read lit fic, read this one. It is not pretentious; it doesn’t serve as a platform for the author’s own intellect as some do. What it is is powerful, raw and splendid.


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