"'Remember Firefly Lane?' Tully said, lowering her voice. Over the years those words had become a catchall phrase, a kind of shorthand for their memories. It was their way of saying that a friendship begun at fourteen, back when David Cassidy was groovy and a song could make you cry, would last forever." At times during Kristin Hannah's new novel, FIREFLY LANE, the portrait of two women's 30-year friendship, it seems unlikely that the relationship between these very different individuals will last forever.
Even more unlikely is the fact that they would become such fast friends as teenagers in the first place. But, as Hannah explores skillfully and powerfully in FIREFLY LANE, that’s one of the most surprising --- and valuable --- things about friendship. It doesn't have to make sense all the time. It just has to work. And, for the most part, Kate and Tully's friendship does work well, right from that unlikely beginning.
"It's hard not to compare Hannah's new novel to the beloved movie Beaches. This lifelong story of two female best friends --- one exalted, one humble --- will strike many of the same chords that left moviegoers weeping after that film. FIREFLY LANE, however, is a much richer, more complex and more satisfying story than any movie could be."
Kate Mularkey is having an awkward time transitioning from childhood to the teenage years. Wearing unfashionable hand-me-downs and failing to pay attention to her hair or makeup, she has few school friends. So when beautiful, stylish Talullah ("Tully") Hart moves onto her street, Kate feels sure that this gorgeous stranger will simply ignore plain old ordinary Kate, just like everyone else always has. During the summer of 1974, though, Kate discovers that despite her confident exterior, Tully, who has suffered a series of abandonments by her drug-addicted mother, needs a best friend just as much as Kate herself does. And in Kate --- and the Mularkeys --- Tully finds not only a friendship but also a sort of family, one that will follow her through the next three decades.
Tully is a go-getter. At the age of 14, she announces that she will be a newswoman just like the female anchors who were getting started at the time. Kate, too, announces that she shares this dream. But unlike Tully, her heart is never in it. And as Tully rockets to the top of the glamorous worlds of television and entertainment, Kate settles for a more humble existence, one that mystifies Tully as well as Kate's women's lib-touting mother. Constantly battling self-doubt, concerns that her husband still burns a torch for the more beautiful Tully, and worries that she is not being a good mother to her own teenage daughter, Kate lives a very different lifestyle from Tully, whose main concerns include dating gorgeous men, accepting high-paying jobs, going to exotic locations --- and battling profound loneliness. In spite of the distance of years, geography and very different choices, the two girls once known simply as "TullyandKate" remain each other's anchors during 30 years of life's challenges, surprises and tragedies.
It's hard not to compare Hannah's new novel to the beloved movie Beaches. This lifelong story of two female best friends --- one exalted, one humble --- will strike many of the same chords that left moviegoers weeping after that film. FIREFLY LANE, however, is a much richer, more complex and more satisfying story than any movie could be. In the course of close to 500 pages, Hannah gives readers a window into these women's lives --- separately and together --- making her audience feel almost as if they have two best friends of their own.
FIREFLY LANE will appeal most to women of a certain age, those who came of age during the 1980s, who benefited from the women's movement and were told they could "have it all" --- even though some of them didn't necessarily want it all. Hannah clearly revels in including authentic period details, particularly descriptions of fashions, fads and popular music that will have readers who lived through those decades smiling in recognition. Younger and older women, though, will also find much to treasure in these pages --- in fact, anyone who has ever had a best friend will recognize themselves in Kate and Tully's friendship.
"I guess no one stays friends for more than thirty years without a few broken hearts along the way," says Kate near the end of the novel. Indeed, the chronicle of Kate and Tully's decades-long friendship resembles that of a long-time marriage --- with high points and low, closeness and distance, misunderstandings and reconciliations --- and illustrates the work required to keep all relationships flourishing over time. "Remember Firefly Lane?" Tully asks Kate when both are still young women. Over the course of a lifetime, they do --- and readers won't soon forget it either.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 5, 2008