2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas, by Marie-Helene Bertino
What a lovely, refreshing book, and such a wonderful way to start the new year! This is the kind of writing I revel in - nouns turned into verbs in ways that make you wonder how no one else has done it before, indelible characters that have you rooting for them from the start - good fun, good writing, and incredibly readable. This is a love letter to the flawed city of Philadelphia, to anyone who has suffered loss, to the beauty of friendship and music and those who find joy in even the darkest corners. The star of this book is Madeleine, nine-years old with a mother dead of cancer and a father so deep in grief he can no longer be a father. Madeleine is smart and blunt, as city girls are, with a hell of a singing voice and a dream to sing at church, assemblies, clubs, anywhere they'll let her, only no one will. Singing back up is her teacher, Sarina Greene, late thirties, divorced, back home and listless in her loneliness. When her old prom date, the one who got away, shows up at a dinner party she is last-minute-invited to, her world goes sideways. We switch narrative voices often and seamlessly. This is a beautiful little book that did not get the attention it deserved in hardcover; I hope people will pick it up now it's in paperback.