Review

Strings Attached

by Judy Blundell

Kit is a 17-year-old triplet who comes from the Corrigan clan, "a long line of lunkheads going straight back to County Galway" and who can't seem to catch a break. Her mother died while giving birth to her, her brother Jamie and her sister Muddie. The triplets are raised by their dad, with help for a time from his sister, Delia. While growing up performing as one of the Corrigan Three, Kit has become a talented dancer who eventually outgrows her hometown.

In 1950, following a messy breakup with Kit, the wealthy Billy Benedict joins the Army with Jamie. Billy is a troubled yet fascinating character. He's in love with Kit, consumed by his passion for photography and haunted by a dark secret. Although he loves Kit, his jealousy and angry outbursts drive her away, and she moves to New York City.

Living in New York isn't easy for a teenage dancer with dreams of becoming a showgirl. With barely enough money to survive, her diet consists of donuts and peanuts. She rents space in a room belonging to one of the other dancers, whose mother charges Kit for everything, including each tea bag and spoon of sugar.

During a performance one night, Billy's father, Nate Benedict --- a powerful attorney who defends mobsters --- shows up. Nate offers Kit a tidy and bright apartment in the city, rent-free, no strings attached. All he asks is that Kit write Billy, with hopes that Billy will return home before he leaves for the Korean War. Kit is still crazy about Billy, and she needs a place to stay, so she agrees. In addition to giving Kit the key to the apartment, Nate supplies her with a wardrobe and helps her land a job as a Lido Doll. But Kit realizes that "luck doesn't last" and there are strings attached to Nate's generosity. Before long, Nate asks her to do favors.

Meanwhile, Kit meets the studious Hank Greeley and his family. The Greeleys, Kit's neighbors, are genuinely kind-hearted people caught up in the anti-Communist hysteria sweeping the nation. After a murder occurs in the nightclub, Kit is drawn into a web of intrigue and secrets. The more she learns about Nate, the more she discovers how their families are connected and how damaging secrets can be.

Judy Blundell, author of the National Book Award-winning WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, has written an enchanting story about a talented and independent teenage girl pursuing her dream when times are tough and at great risk. Blundell's descriptions and details of New York City in 1950 are vivid and evocative. The characters, especially Kit and Billy, are realistic and memorable. One scene of Billy at the end of the book leaves an unforgettable and a haunting image that readers will find hard to forget. STRINGS ATTACHED is an elegantly written story of courage, sacrifice, neglect, redemption, and the brutal power of secrets to shape and ruin lives.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (dvolkenannt@charter.net) on March 1, 2011

Strings Attached
by Judy Blundell