Book: Firefly Lane
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Fiction/Friendship/Growing Up
Summary (from back of St. Martin's Griffin edition): In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the "coolest girl in the world" moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all-beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed forever to be uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer's end they've become TullyandKate. Inseparable. So begins Kristin Hannah's maginificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives. For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship-jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they've survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.- 2008, St. Martin's Griffin.
This book is the complete opposite for me in terms of genre. I normally don't head towards the "Recommended Summer Reading" tables that Barnes&Nobles set up, eager to find a new read. Most of the books on these tables are just what they are: summer books. They revolve around summer, the beach, or some other kind of feeling/image that you can associate with summer. As summer isn't my favorite season, I'm not exactly itching to be whisked away to another beach side. I love the ocean, but not summer. The ironies never cease. Anyway, I eventually end up at these tables and I usually take a look at a few of the paperbacks, wondering what kind of dramatic situations these authors have decided to create.
I knew that once I read the back of this novel, I had to buy it. I immediately identified with Kate - the "forever uncool" girl. I was never popular in my life and to see how a fellow "loser" (even if she's a fictional one) does in her own life is something I like to see. Usually the loser triumphs in the end and the popular one learns something life changing from the loser so that she/he may attempt to change her/his ways. It's like a less serious version of a good vs. evil dramatic conflict. After all, as most adults know, popularity is one of the dumbest things to fret over and yet, when you're a pre-teen/adolescent, it's like trying to get your dream job.
Again, I will try to be as spoiler free as I can so that those who are interested in reading this novel won't have the plot ruined.
As I said before, I completely identified with Kate and her problems - her desire to be loved, her lack of satisfaction with the world she's dragged into, her fear of following Tully and never doing anything for herself, seeing someone you love love someone else; the list goes on. I could identify with Tully only slightly. I know she's meant to teach us a lesson in the pursuit of our dreams and with her background, it's understandable as to why she ends up the way she does. But I still couldn't help but be frustrated by her from time to time. I see things in her that I see in people I know and I side with Kate every time they have a fight. I just identify so much more with Kate than Tully so I don't sympathize with Tully as much. What happens to her at times is horrible, yes, but I just don't connect with her.
Since I connected so closely with Kate, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster ride. The "unrequited love" arc is something that I personally found emotionally draining. I just wanted Kate to be happy, not just for her own sake, but for mine as well. When Kate holds everything in - her jealousy, insecurity, and love - I just feel for her. The reader, I think, feels Kate's pain much more acutely than Tully's. It's not that Tully doesn't have her fair share of painful moments, but Tully holds things in and tries to forget them as soon as possible, rather than learning from them and treating them as things to be experienced.
The book is written in third person, but it switches between Kate's POV and Tully's POV. The scenes in the book are treated as different moments in the lives of these women. In the childhood arc - the book is divided into four parts dedicated to each decade in which they live, starting with the 1970s - the moments are closer to each other, but each girl focuses on a different part of the moment. An example would be when the girls ride their bikes in the dark for the first time. The moment starts out in Kate's POV until they get to the river bank, which then becomes Tully's POV. It's not that difficult to see which moment belongs to which girl. Hannah makes a point of saying the girl's name somewhere within the first paragraph of the new "moment" or chapter.
What I like most about this book is the characters. Kate and Tully remain true to their cores, even as they grow up. In my mind's eye, I could picture them as little girls and adults. Even better, Hannah makes their emotions so real and constant. Kate's insecurity and jealousy when it comes to Tully's natural beauty and charisma/passion/drive (along with other things that are connected to spoilers) is always mentioned somewhere within the story line. Even if Kate gets what she wants, there's always that dark shadow lurking around. The characters aren't perfect and that's what makes them amazing. They seem like real people with real flaws and I love that.
The only problem I had with the book was its ending. Again, I'll be spoiler free so I'm just going to keep it short. I was a little unsatisfied with the ending. It sounded a bit too much like something that would happen in a tv drama. It gets a nice tidy ending without really solving the major problem that was happening with the characters. I'm probably just beng nit picky and, to those who end up reading this (or have read it before), you'll see that I'm being a little hypocritical when I had just said that I like the realistic take to the characters. What happens in the end can happen in real life and who's to say that the situations that take place don't actually happen? I'm also not trying to say that what ends up happening to one of the characters shouldn't be reduced to "something that would happen in a tv drama". What happens is serious stuff and I am in no way trying to be disrespectful or insensitive. I have been personally affected by this kind of event before so I know the kind of suffering and feelings that come along with it - I even had to put this book down a couple times because I started crying. In the end though, the finale was put together as nicely as the beginning and the end. It doesn't drag out and everything flows nicely.
This review is much shorter than my first and that's understandable since a) not all reviews are created equal and b) if I talked anymore about it, I would be spoiling A LOT.
So, overall, I give Firefly Lane an A+
Please support the author by buying the book from a local bookstore or borrowing it from a library or a friend.