So, I’ve sort of known for a little while that Kristin Hannah has a bit of a reputation for wrecking her readers. But I was naively thinking, ‘this isn’t The Nightingale, or other books I’ve heard are so intense to read. Firefly Lane should be a good introduction.” And it had been loaned to me, and Netflix made a series that looked intriguing, so it had everything going for it.
And it absolutely wrecked me. It is too soon for a book like this. I ate a lot of cookies after finishing this book (and they only kind of helped. I think the ’80s did a little more to soothe the pain, per the usual).
Despite a bit of a rocky start, Kate and Tully were fast friends, definitely endgame, best friends forever. Through the tumultuous teenage years to college and beyond, they have always been a package deal, chasing their dream of becoming journalism’s favorite duo. When Kate finally owns that the dream isn’t hers as much as Tully’s, they navigate the semi-bumpy road to settle into their separate-but-parallel lives. But despite it all, Kate can’t seem to get out from Tully’s shadow, and Tully is always reaching for something more to fill the void left by childhood rejection and abandonment.
The years, the marriage, success, ups and downs, they have always been there for each other, until the mistakes seem too big to overcome, and pride gets in the way of reconciliation. And when Kate needs Tully most, it seems like she won’t be there. But if Tully isn’t there now, there’ll never be another chance.
Hannah’s characters are incredibly real and they draw you in to the story immediately. Even as you want to point out to them the boundaries they need, the flaws they should address, the confidence they lack, you can’t help but seeing slivers of yourself within them. But while I expected a sort of feel-good story about female friendship– and to a degree, it was– it was also a horribly brutal story that pulled no punches to highlight the real feelings and challenges of adulthood. From feeling second-best to always wanting more, feeling unloved and feeling inadequate, Kate and Tully go through the wringer. And as the reader, seeing yourself in them, you go through it, too.
What really got me was the end, which I suspected for a while in the book. I’m going to give a spoiler here, because it’s directly related to my experience with the book. Kate is diagnosed with breast cancer toward the end of the book, and despite every attempt, everyone is forced to accept that she is dying and there’s no help for it. She has to make her peace with everyone and do what she can to mitigate the inevitable regret of her death. And less than a year ago, my family was staring this possibility in the face. So to expect a feel-good friendship story and get slapped with this close-to-home tragedy pretty much wrecked me. And if Hannah can do that with this story, where she probably wasn’t even unleashing her full emotional-wrecking power, I can only imagine what some of her more intentional works are like. I’m not ready for that right now, that’s all I can say.
Firefly Lane is a great story, poignant and relevant in today’s society where women still struggle with balancing a career and a home. It wrestles with some challenging themes, like loving someone who never says they are sorry or finding self-worth when you’ve lived always feeling rejected and abandoned. The more I describe it, the heavier this book sounds. But Hannah doesn’t write it in a heavy way. Some parts are light and fun. Kate and Tully are best friends, though they are imperfect (and I dare say there is definitely some toxicity in their relationship, but then, who can say they have a perfect friendship?).
It’s a good story, great if you’re into getting emotionally wrecked by an author. And usually I’m down for that, and I wouldn’t even say I wasn’t down for it now, just that it was too soon and I wasn’t ready for this particular story. So read Kristin Hannah carefully, and make sure you have tissues nearby.