Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fiction Review: Firefly Lane

I just finished Firefly Lane, a novel by Kristin Hannah, and I couldn’t wait to write about it. This was one of those books that I carried everywhere with me, sneaking in a few paragraphs whenever I could. The story pulled me in so thoroughly that I felt like I knew the characters personally.

Firefly Lane is the story of a lifelong friendship between two women, Kate and Tully, who meet when they are both lonely fourteen-year old girls:

Kate stood outside the drugstore looking up and down the street for someone who might know her mom. “Are you sure about this?”

“Absolutely.”

The answer was slim comfort, actually. In the day they’d officially been friends, Kate had learned one thing about Tully: she was a girl who made Plans.

And today’s plan was to make Kate beautiful.

“Don’t you trust me?”

There it was, the big question. It was like rolling a Yahtzee: once Tully said it, Kate lost the game. She had to trust her new friend. “Of course I do. It’s just that I’m not allowed to wear make-up.”

“Believe me, I’m such an expert your mom will never know. Come on.”

Tully walked boldly though the drugstore, choosing eye shadow and blush colors that were “right” for Kate, and then – amazingly – she paid for everything. When Kate said something, Tully said airily, “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

From then on, Kate and Tully are inseparable, and the novel follows their friendship and their lives for decades, through school, college, careers, and relationships. I especially enjoyed all of the details of the times (fashions, haircuts, music, etc.) as the girls grew up in the 70's and became women in the 80's.

Someone had told me that this book was too sad for her, but I loved every minute of it. Yes, I did actually cry – not once but three different times! – while reading it, but I love a novel that can make me cry. To me, the best fiction is the kind that mirrors real life, populated with characters who act like real people, and real life is full of both sorrow and joy, good times and bad. I did cry while reading certain parts of this book, but I also smiled and laughed at other parts. That’s life. Besides, it’s so cleansing to have a good cry over a great piece of fiction (either book or movie) – much better than crying over your own life!

Besides the events in the book mirroring real life, I loved that the characters were real, flawed people. They made mistakes, they didn’t always treat each other well, they did stupid things – there were times when I wanted to shake each of them – but they also had triumphs and good times, too. I’ve read novels about idealized female friendships before that just left me feeling inadequate, like what’s wrong with me that I’ve never had a fairy-tale friendship like this? But no relationship is perfect in real life, which is why this novel and these characters grabbed me so completely.

Despite the fact that the book is almost 500 pages long, I never wanted it to end. When I finished it last night, I immediately began to read the extra stuff at the end – author interview, discussion questions, etc. One thing I learned is that this novel was somewhat autobiographical for the author – not the complete storyline, but the time and place and some of the events. I think that explains why the book elicits such genuine emotions. Maybe I’ll get in touch with some old friends today...

St. Martin’s Griffin, 479 pages.

2 comments:

  1. I’m stopping by to say I’ve got something for you at I'm Booking It!

    (And I need to pick up Firefly Lane, I think. I wasn't thrilled with the one Kristin Hannah book I read, but I liked enough about it to want to try another book by her, more carefully selected this time)

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  2. I found Firefly Lane to be a compelling, quick read. It's as much about mothers and daughters as it is about friendship, but the way it addresses friendship was the more compelling element of the story for me this time through. I can see this easily flip-flopping in future reads. It's not especially profound, but I think the characters will continue to intrigue me so as to inspire those future reads. That's saying a lot becuase I am not one to re-read books.

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