In 1950, 17-year-old Kit Corrigan arrives in New York City ready for her big break. She’s shed her life in Providence, Rhode Island, like a snake does its skin; she’s said goodbye to her well-meaning but jealous boyfriend, Billy, and resigned herself to a new life without him. Redheaded and diligent, Kit is tired of being one of the Corrigan Three — a trio of famous siblings that entered the world just as their mother left it.
She’s ready to move on.
But the past isn’t quite ready to let her go. After the Broadway show in which she’s worked as a dancer closes, a family friend darkens her doorstep, promising a sweet deal: come to work as a chorus girl at the Lido, a gentleman’s club in the city. Take this apartment. Stay here, wear these clothes — watch as your life is taken care of for you. You only have to do me these few favors, Kit . . . just these few favors. Little things. Nothing.
Don’t you owe me?
Oh, I’m in quite the love affair with Judy Blundell’s Strings Attached. I closed the book with trembling fingers, my mind struggling to wrap around the intricate convergence of so many plots. This novel is engrossing, calculated, painful. It’s sweeping and fully realized. It made me ache with loss.
I loved it.
Kit was, by far, my favorite character — a young woman who is naive, yes, but madly in love with the first man to steal her heart: Billy Benedict, Nate’s son. Big-time lawyer Nate has his fingers on the pulse of the mob, it’s rumored, and certainly seems to be up to no good — but his offer to Kit seems genuine. Forget casting Billy out. Stay in a private apartment, work for now and wait for him. Wait for Nate’s son, fresh in the army, to return. And when he does? Marry him. Marry him and go away.
But it’s not as simple as that. In fact, nothing in Blundell’s novel is easy — and no conclusion is reached without a fair amount of turmoil. I ripped through this book in days with a bottomless pit open in my stomach, dying to know what would become of the Corrigan family. Triplets Kit, Muddie and Jamie were all fleshed-out, sympathetic and fascinating teens — and Jimmy, the siblings’ father, was a man I couldn’t help but love. He was wrecked and absent and desperate, yes, but he was “Da” — their bullheaded Irish father. And he loved them fiercely, through and through — even when things became complicated, tragic. Maybe especially then.
The book’s setting — the pre-war years of 1937 up through the Depression, then the onset of the Korean War in 1950 — were what really captivated my imagination. Blundell perfectly captures the uncertainty of living in a time when it felt the world could collapse at any moment — and, selfishly, Strings Attached reminded me that life in 2011 ain’t got nothin’ on the Cold War, the threat of nuclear attack, the reality of boys disappearing from homeroom because they’d gone to fight someone else’s war. It was haunting and powerful. It felt like being dropped into a time machine, and I actually had to blink a few times to reenter the 21st century.
I really can’t say enough great things about this novel, and it’s not one I would want to spoil for you. The story tears along at a frantic speed, swinging you from Kit’s present life in New York to her early years in Providence. We learn of the past between the Corrigan and Benedict families by piecing together the tiles Kit offers, turning them around until we’ve formed a chipped mosaic. Until we get the full story. And by then, my heart was breaking.
Stunning, lovely, romantic, tear-inducing. Not to be missed.
5 out of 5!