Kristin Hannah: Firefly Lane (2008)
Whenever I go to Barnes and Noble, I always visit the fiction aisles to see if anything catches my eye. I love my tried-and-true favorites, like Agatha Christie and Stephen King, but I am as eager to discover a new love as I am to read another of their stories. I view my list of authors as I do my list of music artists: one that I work to expand on, so that the possibilities to experience become endless.
I've never heard of Kristin Hannah, but the covers of her books along the shelf were what drew me in, and the summary of Firefly Lane is what won me over. A story of friendship between two completely different girls that goes over the span of thirty-plus years. Horror and mystery novels are my favorites, but stories of life and all of its ugly and beautiful faces have been meaningful to me lately. And, of course, I love stories that really go in-depth. I rather know too much about the characters than too little. I want to feel - to realistically feel.
As such, I purchased Firefly Lane (2008). It has been my go-to read during my time on the elliptical, so I didn't expect to finish it this soon. But I've been wanting to read it - wanting to see what happens next, how the friendship between these girls ends or goes on forever. That's why I sat down today and read what was left.
Now I'm here, unsure of how to organize this review, but wanting to tell you that Firefly Lane is one of the most touching, powerful, and submerging novels I've ever come across.
The two girls that are the stars of this book are Tallulah Hart and Kate Mularkey. They are two sides of the same coin: Tallulah is popular but suffers from a lack of familial love, and Kate is the geek with a family whose heart is so big she that can't stand it sometimes. The two meet, they commit to be best friends forever, and the promise follows through until the very end.
The setting of their budding friendship is Firefly Lane, and this road becomes the anchor to all of their memories as they grow older and do what life makes inevitable: dream, grow up, split down different paths, and suffer through episodes of unbearable pain and whole happiness.
Tully becomes a rich and famous news figure and TV host. Kate revisits time and time again her passion for writing while shouldering the load of being a stay-at-home mom. Tully longs for the family Kate has, and Kate longs for the attention that Tully never ceases to garner. There is the battle between wanting and having, as well as the battle between knowing and understanding.
Ever since I started this blog, I've read books knowing that I'd have to do my best to come on here and review them (book reviews are the most difficult for me). And so as I looked for things to pick at and criticize, the first that came up was "this was covered too briefly, and felt almost like the vague, stereotypical image recycled to death in a Hallmark card." But now that I've reached the book's end, I know that none of that is the case. Those moments simply weren't important enough, and though it didn't seem to be that way at the time I was reading them, I now know otherwise.
This book left me satisfied but longing. The end was completely unexpected, to me, and brought me to tears. As Tully and Kate reminisce on their past, I feel like I'm right there beside them pulling up memories that are from my own life. It's not because I felt like I could relate to them - in fact, I wished through every page of this book that I had a friendship even once in my life that could compare to theirs - but because I went through these memories with them.
As the reader, we follow them through the ups-and-downs of the start of their friendship. We're there when Tully falls in love with Chad, lets him leave, and then meets him again years later. We're there when Kate falls in love with Johnny and has to endure his fleeting night with Tully. We're there when Tully is abandoned by her biological mother time and time again, and goes to Kate, her truest family. We're there when Kate and Johnny get married, and have kids, and struggle with parenthood and their separate histories with Tully. We're there watching Marah, Kate's daughter, grow up and rebel, and feel reminded of Kate when she was a child at the book's beginning. We're there when this large, shared family goes through the darkest moments they could have never imagined. We feel like we've lost a part of ourselves, too.
Perhaps I'm at fault for reviewing this book so soon after finishing it. Maybe that's why I can't, at this moment, pinpoint the negatives that inevitably exist within it. I guess if I wanted to nitpick, I could say that I wish Kate's brother, Sean, had some significance in the story aside from being her annoying little brother when she's still a teen living with her parents. When his name comes up much later in the book, it takes me a while to recall who he is, and I only manage to do so through a process of elimination.
Whatever the case, I am completely moved by this book. I don't want to spoil the end for you so I won't go into detail there, but it's the end that really makes this book a gem in my eyes. There are tumultuous emotions throughout the book - emotions like anger, hatred, jealousy, and abandonment that we don't always want to acknowledge and sometimes try to ignore in our own lives - but it's these emotions that make the story so raw and real to me. It feels like living through multiple lifetimes - and layers of lifetimes - as we skip back and forth between Kate and Tully's lives apart and together, as well as the lives of those that are important to them.
I wish I had a friend that held such a concrete part of my childhood and current life - that would continue to hold such significance in my future. For me, it's only family. But even so, this book goes beyond friendship and focuses on love in all its forms: marriage, unrequited or faded love, parenthood, biological, career passion, trust, forgiveness - the list goes on. Sometimes I want to get scared, sometimes I want to be puzzled and surprised, but sometimes I just want to be reminded of life in its simplest, truest form and the love that exists in every corner of everything. I want to be reminded not to take time or people for granted - perhaps especially that, being that I'm the girl that's always trying to lunge her life forward, to get out and get going. It reminds me to hold out, patiently, for more.
On that note, I wholeheartedly recommend Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane. I just now discovered that there's a sequel, Fly Away, but I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet, as Firefly Lane was such a heavy, engulfing, and fulfilling read on its own. I know I will read it, but I'm just not sure when exactly.
I hope you enjoy what's left of the weekend, and have a wonderful week. 'Til next time. ('<>')>
P.S.: I feel dumb about this, but I wanted to mention that much of this book is rooted in the art and news stories of the 1970s and beyond. There is a lot of culture built within the novel that really brings it to life, though I will say I am not so familiar with all of the songs/events that are tied in due to the fact that I'm a '90s child. I suppose that, and the fact that the relationships in the story are what truly caught my full investment, are the reasons I failed to mention this in my review. It does remind me of my own writing in college though. My thesis professor always told me to put more concrete details into my story, and this is a clear example of the effect that has on the reader, whether it is instantly recognized or not.