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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 9 years, 10 months ago

11 September 2010 STRINGS ATTACHED by Judy Blundell, Scholastic Press, March 2011, 320p., ISBN: 978-0-545-22126-9


"I have a picture pinned to my wall"

-- The Thompson Twins, "Hold Me Now"


"I held out the key to him and shook my head.

"'You know the favor I did your family,' Nate said.  'I didn't want to have to mention it.'

"'That's funny, because you just did.'

"'I told you back then, even when you were a little girl, you'd owe me a favor.  And you shook on it.'

"'You're calling in a promise I made when I was twelve?'

"Did I owe him this much?

"I owed him this much.

"'C'mon, I promised you dinner.  How about a steak?  There's a place around the corner that's good.'

"I wanted the steak.  My mouth watered for it.  The steak, and this place, and the radiator blasting heat, and the radio, and the pillows.  I could see myself here, and I could see Billy knocking at the door in his uniform and me opening the door in a dress and heels and lipstick, welcoming him home.

"Maybe I'd been dead wrong about Billy.  Maybe the decision to stop seeing him was the latest in the long line of bad Corrigan luck.  Wasn't it true that I was still crazy for him, that I had to stop myself from writing him every single night?  That there were plenty of nights I left the theater, hoping he'd be at the stage door in his uniform, with that hungry look in his eyes before he lifted me into his arms?  How many times had I played that scene in my head -- how I'd shake my head at him, telling him it was still over?  Didn't it always end in a kiss?

"There was too much going on in my head, and I was afraid some of it would spill out in front of Nate Benedict."


When I arrived in Southampton, Long Island late in the spring of 1974, after wrapping up my freshman year at UConn, I was befriended by a group of townie kids.  What I'd previously known of the Hamptons back then involved innocent childhood memories of pretty beaches and the dazzling stories of the fabulously wealthy, most notably the images one got through words and old photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy's privileged childhood summers spent there.


One thing I came to know over the decade of first summering and then (after college) living in Southampton was the ever-present hints of thick webs of dark secrets involving the parents and grandparents of some of those kids with whom I was partying, secrets involving money and influence and violence with threads that reached all the way back into the days of the rum runners.


Like a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist, these memories came rushing back to me as I immersed myself in the early Fifties world of Judy Blundell's STRINGS ATTACHED.  Underlying young Kit Corrigan's tale of leaving home and trying to make it on Broadway, and her story of complicated love between herself and Billy Benedict, is a multigenerational web of secrets stretching all the way back to Prohibition.  It is a story involving two intertwined families, the coastal town of Providence, Rhode Island, mobsters, favors granted, and favors owed.  


What also comes to mind while reading STRINGS ATTACHED are my childhood memories of sitting up late on a Friday night, watching black and white movies made before I was born, the ones that they'd show on TV late at night when I was a kid in the Sixties.  Judy Blundell captures the glamour and ambiance and danger of a Manhattan that I still think of in black and white, a Manhattan that I was born one generation too late to have known, except through some of those old movies...and now through this book.


One of the coolest things about STRINGS ATTACHED is that Blundell never does reveal every last secret.     


In crafting this passionate tale of two generations of favors, secrets, and tragedies, what Blundell delivers in spades is a real taste of trying to make it in show biz back then, in the days of the Korean Conflict, the Red Scare, the blacklisting, and the Kefauver Committee.


What we also come to realize, from these two generations living just before I was born, is that the magic and mystery and complications of love never go out of style.


"When I stood up, my steps were uncertain, as though I was wearing lifts in my shoes.  I could feel the air between the soles of my feet and the ground.  It was like something important had altered, like gravity, or the air itself."


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries.

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