Firefly Lane and Fly Away
St. Martin’s Press
Firefly Lane and its sequel Fly Away, by Kristin Hannah, were written over a decade ago. But they have come back into relevance after Netflix adapted these novels for a TV series. Although the Netflix series is good, those who have not read Hannah’s books are missing the essence of the stories. Hannah has a knack for a descriptive writing style that draws out the characters through a storyline that is heart-warming and heart-wrenching.
Throughout both books, spanning a period of about thirty years, two girls, Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart, different as day and night, have weathered the storm of friendship, jealousy, anger, hurt, and resentment. Kate has always been in Tully’s shadow, being the shy girl with thick glasses who is lonely and uncool. Tully is the “cool girl” with ambition, brains, and beauty. But these two become best friends forever, known as TullyandKate. As they grow to adulthood, they make different choices in life. Tully chooses to make her career her life’s one true love, while Kate is content to marry, have children, and be a stay-at-home mom, a reflection of her own family as she was growing up. In a sense, Kate’s family adopted Tully and showed her a loving environment, something Tully did not have with her own mom known as Dorothy “Cloud” who was never there for her daughter.
The sequel novel, Fly Away, shows how Kate was the glue that held everyone together. After not able to have Kate around, her family, and her best friend, must navigate their own lives, wondering how they can get along without Kate’s presence. Sixteen-year-old Marah is devastated. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable. Nothing and no one seem to matter to her. And Tully has turned to drugs and booze. A tragic accident has Tully facing her past and her pain, as she has visions of her friend, and must decide whether or not life is worth living.
Readers will be touched greatly, something no TV series can encompass. Her books have a way of creeping into people’s hearts and feelings as they navigate the emotional ups and down with the characters.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for writing these books?
Kristin Hannah: I started writing these stories in 2006. These are the most autobiographical of my books. I wanted to explore my generation of women: what was it like in high school, college, having an early career, and motherhood. I wanted to show the impact of family and how my mother’s breast cancer affected us.
EC: Are you Kate or Tully?
KH: I am Kate, although I wish I had more Tully in me.
EC: How would you describe Kate?
KH: Serious, level-headed, moral, a straightshooter. She lives too much in her head and does not like to make dangerous choices. I think of her more as a caretaker than a follower.
EC: How would you describe Tully?
KH: Broken and ambitious. She grew up with the feeling that if she is successful and famous, she will be unconditionally loved. I do not believe she is insecure although her past suggests she should be considering she grew up with a mother who seemed not to care or love her.
EC: There is a powerful quote in the book that best describes the relationship between Tully and Kate. Can you explain?
KH: You must be referring to this quote, “That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips are down, they were there, making you laugh, even in your darkest hours.” Kate knew how broken Tully was and wanted to be there for her. On the other hand, Tully wants to push Kate to get outside of herself and strive for things. But in the end, Kate’s journey in life, her real joy in life was to be a wife and mother. They needed each other, but in different ways. Kate and her family kept Tully human and grounded her, allowing places for Tully to come home to. They had a deep and true relationship throughout their lives, even when they went on different paths and lived in different places.
EC: What about Tully’s mom versus Kate’s mom?
KH: Kate’s mom is the stand in for my mom. A salt of the earth person who is loving and straight forward and strove for both girls to reach big. She was always there for Kate, but was also a little starry eyed around Tully, making Kate a bit jealous at times. Tully’s mom, Cloud or Dorothy is a tragic character. At the very best she is an uncommitted mother and at worse a very bad mom. She was not there to educate, protect, or love her only child.
EC: What about the relationship between Kate’s daughter, Marah, and Tully?
KH: This was another point of contention between Kate and Tully. Kate saw it as her job to raise Marah to be a good moral thoughtful human being and to live a good life. Tully gets to be the aunt who flies in on her private jet. But there’s no doubt about the love these three share; it’s just that love is sometimes bumpy and takes a while to work out.
EC: What was wonderful about these books is how you contrasted a stay-at-home mom versus having a career. It seems the Netflix show missed this important point.
KH: Actually, I don’t agree that the series has missed this point. I think we don’t know yet how much the series will stick to the novel on this storyline. Because Season one only tells about 1/3 of the book, the idea of Kate as an at home hasn’t really come up yet. There’s a lot of story left to see. We haven’t seen Kate as a young mother yet. But I think the series wanted to show that Kate was a talented writer and producer in her own right. She could have gone into the working world and have been very successful. But the choice she made was to be an at home mom. At the end of Firefly Lane as Kate looks back on her life, she is very certain she made the right choice and feels good about it.
EC: Would you say the second book, Fly Away, explores memories, regrets, second chances, forgiveness, and grief?
KH: The first book, Firefly Lane is about finding love in life, and Fly Away is about losing it. Without Kate’s friendship, Tully has to grow up.
EC: Both books delve into the relationship between Kate’s husband Johnny and herself?
KH: They had a true love. It had some miles and bumps in it but in the end, theirs was a great love.
EC: Another contention was how the relationship between Johnny and Kate was portrayed in the series?
KH: The novel is one thing, and the series is another. The series structures the story differently than I did. The novel is chronological in nature; the series runs on three timelines, so people are seeing the story in an order I did not write. I am hopeful that the 2/3 of Firefly Lane still to come to screen will show the depth of the Johnny and Kate’s love affair since this is important to me and my readers. I do like the series and feel that it is very true to the friendship between Johnny, Kate, and Tully, an inseparable trio. The first season explored the friendship. If there is a second season it will hopefully show the love story. I, personally, adore the casting of the show and can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
EC: Why did the series have the three different timelines throughout?
KH: If they had made the timeline like the book there would have been a lot of the fourteen-year-olds. I also felt it would have been more ordinary that way. Yes, the series would have been more faithful to the novel, but a series has a life of its own, too. I understand, why readers love the book—I do, too—and honestly, it’s hard to adapt a beloved novel. I think the series did take the material and make a great TV show while still being respectful to the underlying plotline, and the four women who played Kate and Tully are amazing. I am like everyone else who wants a season two because they left it hanging in the middle. Like, you, I am looking forward to a deep focus on a season two that focusses on the Johnny-Kate love story.
EC: Can you give a shout out about your next book?
KH: I have been doing a lot of publicity and the pandemic has knocked me for a loop. I am just now thinking about some things. I had originally seen Firefly Lane as the start of a trilogy. So, I will never say never about writing a third book. I would also like to write Loreda’s story, the daughter in The Four Winds, my current book. But neither will be the next book I write.