Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.
As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. (Summary from Amazon.com.)
I think I was hoping to love this book more than I did, but I still found it pretty enjoyable. I don’t really like when a book jumps around between too many characters, because it splits my focus, and I end up not being very invested in any of the storylines. But in this case, I was immediately drawn to Lorca and the other denizens of The Cat’s Pajamas. I’m an amateur musician myself, and I always love reading about music and musicians. So I sympathized with Lorca, whose beloved jazz club is slowly dying, and the literal band of misfits he’s collected. But I wasn’t as invested in the other stories until the end, where all the characters converge on the club. I did get a kick out of Madeleine, whose goal of becoming a jazz singer is so precocious and bizarre, and I warmed up to Sarina as her story unfolded. The book also has a great sense of atmosphere and paints a vivid picture of contemporary Philadelphia. Some people may find the novel too whimsical, but I liked it overall, even though it didn’t completely grab me.