If the popularity of romance novels is any indication, most of us are all too eager to delight in compelling old romance books. Pride and Prejudice, Normal People, and Seven Days in June; these are but a few of the examples of novels that compel us to love love in whichever form it comes– first love, true love, timeless love, enemies to lovers, and everything in between.
However, what if a story was centered around the friends and relationship between best friends? The Firefly Lane book series may provide an answer to this question.
Generally, friends are written into the plot to dole out relationship advice or provide comedic relief. We accept these oversimplified depictions of friendship. But we know that friendship, particularly female friendship, is a unique and extraordinary bond that deserves a bright place in the novels we read and the movies we watch.
A beautiful entry in such a category of novels is the best-selling Firefly Lane by novelist Kristen Hannah. If the title sounds familiar, it is because the Firefly Lane books were adapted to a major Netflix series by the same name starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. The Firefly Lane book series revolves around the life-long friendship of two girls as they navigate girlhood, womanhood, and beyond. Over the course of decades, Kate and Tully carry each other through heartache, happiness, hatred, and resentment.
Anatomy of a Friendship
The Firefly Lane book series opened on some summer’s day in 1974. Kate Mularkey – played by Sarah Chalke in the Netflix series – seems to have accepted her fate as an eighth-grade nobody sitting right near the bottom of the high school social ladder. That is until she meets Tully Hart – Katherine Heigl – a natural beauty new to the neighborhood who mesmerises all her fellow eighth graders. The girls form an inseparable bond. Kate and Tully. Tully and Kate. They are known by all the eighth graders as the Firefly Lane girls. Kristen Hannah has us watch as these young women for the better part of thirty years as they navigate their lives, careers, and, most importantly, their friendship.
For thirty years, Tully and Kate have carried each other through life despite choosing very different paths. Ambitious Tully finds success and fame in broadcast journalism, while Kate chooses to fall in love and found a family. While attempting to fit their lives into one another’s, jealousy and old resentments boil into a betrayal that severs their bond, seemingly forever.
Isn’t it strange that, when it comes to friendships, decades of shared experiences and memories can be extinguished in a single moment? Rarely are expected or allowed the space to grieve friendships in the same way one would grieve a romantic relationship even though the loss of a friendship can be far more devastating.
Weaving the Scenes
Hannah is exceptional in the way she weaves the contemporary in Tully and Kate lives. As we watch these young women grow up, we also recognize the world events, small or momentous that have marked the last forty years. From the first moments of the novel, Firefly Lane has all the trappings of a typical American suburban neighborhood in the seventies. As Kate and Tully grow up, we get a material sense of the passage of time through changes in fashion, music and even the changes in perception when it comes to the debate of women in the home or in the workforce.
Firefly Lane and Firefly Lane Book Series are layered with references to contemporary culture and history – the deaths of Princess Diana and John Lennon and the fall of the Twin Towers just to name a few. Not only does it give the reader a heightened sense of the passage of time through the series, but Kristen Hannah’s writing choices also enrich the narrative and anchors Kate and Tully’s friendship into reality.
From Girlhood to Womanhood
Even though friendship is at the core of this novel, Firefly Lane is also a coming-of-age story. As they grow up, Kate and Tully make life choices that reflect the challenges that women faced in the late twentieth century and continue to face today. If you choose homemaking and raising children, you risk being perceived as an oppressed housewife. Choose a career first? You’re likely to be considered as cold, overly ambitious, and decidedly unmaternal. Tully and Kate each fall in one category and yet covet what the other has. Tully, a successful career woman, struggles with infertility. In contrast, Kate grapples with her choice to forgo a career for the sake of her child. Hannah invites her readers to explore womanhood and its evolving expectations through the eighties, nineties, and early noughties.
Firefly Lane Book Series is Better Than Romance
Kate and Tully’s decades-long friendship unravels following a public fight. It is an overwhelming loss for both of them. When Kate becomes unwell, Tully does not waste a moment to be by her side despite their grievances. Reunited, the girls from Firefly Lane rekindle their friendship and become more intertwined than ever as Tully embraces Kate’s partner and daughter.
Though it may not finish with a passionate kiss or some other declaration of love, Kristen Hannah’s Firefly Lane is rich with declarations of an endearing love between two friends who have shared their happiness, regrets, triumphs, and even families with each other. The Firefly Lane book series is a heart-wrenching read that will remind us to keep our dearest friends close to our hearts.
Fly Away, the second book in the Firefly Lane book series, follows in Firefly Lane’s footsteps. Tully finds herself having to face childhood traumas, particularly being abandoned by Dorothy Hart, her mother. Fly Away explores Tully’s growing relationship with Marah, Kate’s Teenaged daughter as she re-examines her relationship with her own mother. Despite these new themes, the essence of Kate and Tully’s friendship remains ever-present.
Are you in need of more reasons to pick up this series? Kristen Hannah’s narrative style is engrossing and will captivate the audience from the first sentence to the final word. Her novels are rife with details that ground the reader in reality. She discusses very relatable themes that are worthy of exploration and discussion, perhaps in a book club. Kristen brings her characters to life on the page. But if that’s not enough, you can pair your read with an enjoyable and just as compelling, watch with the Netflix series. Firefly Lane premiered in 2021, and there are two seasons and twenty-six episodes to enjoy.
Prioritize friendship in your life and in your reading. Pick up Firefly Lane on BookScouter.com as the perfect novel to remind you how impactful and inspiring female friendships truly are.