2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajama’s is the novel debut by award-winning author, Marie-Helene Bertino. Here’s what we thought of it.


It’s nearly Christmas, and three people cross paths at a jazz club that is long past it’s prime. And after that night, their lives will change forever. There is Madeline Altimari, a nine-year-old determined to make her on stage debut after being snubbed from singing at her school’s holiday pageant. Sarina Greene is Madeline’s recently divorced teacher, accepting a party invitation even though it means running into someone from her past. Jack Francis Lorca owns The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club, which is drowning in debt and ready to go under any moment. They’re all looking for something, and on one magical night, they might just get the chance to find it.

In her debut novel, Marie-Helene Bertino weaves a quirky tale told on the frozen streets of Philadelphia. Bertino makes the normally gritty streets of the city come alive with her poetic narrative that knows no single narrator. Any citizen of the city can narrate, be an observer to the story of these three people. While realistic in each of the character’s struggles and lives, the book enjoys moments of magical transportation that seem fitting with the holiday season.

I’m reminded of some of the modern holiday classics of our time – Love Actually comes to mind – when working my way through 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajama’s. Full of holiday spirit and characters trying to find themselves, it embodies the spirit of the season. While it only covers the period of a day – Christmas Eve eve – an expansive and interweaving cast of characters never allows for a dull moment. It is a page turner – literally, some of the chapters are just a few sentences long – which makes it the perfect book to read during the holidays. Busy with decorating, gift-wrapping, cooking, attending the kids’ concerts? This book can be read quickly all the way through or in little bursts without losing the wonder and magic of the story.

To pick up your copy, find it here at Amazon. For more book club choices, find them here.

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