An entertaining blast from the past

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Every generation has its touchstones, and for girls who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, “Firefly Lane” (2008) by Kristin Hannah hits all of them.

Kate Mularkey is an outcast until Tully Hart comes to town. Tully has everything Kate wants: good looks, groovy clothes and a cool mom who lets Tully do whatever she wants. Kate has what Tully wants: two parents who care about her, a solid family and stability. When Tully faces a crisis, there’s only one person she can turn to – the girl across the street, Kate, who will listen and not judge, just accept Tully as she is.

That first conversation cements an enduring friendship that is complicated and delicately interwoven. It sees them through the divergence of their lives – loving the wrong men, careers, marriage, children, living on opposite coasts, and impossible choices.

Both Tully and Kate think their friendship will last forever – until it hits the one thing they can’t overcome.

Kristin Hannah is at her best when she is telling stories about everyday, real people. And they don’t get any more real than Kate and Tully. I could identify with both at different points of their lives, and I think most women will be able to do that, as well.

Speaking of those touchstones, Hannah gently guides her readers in a trip down memory lane, clearly showing a by-gone era. I think I recognized every song title. I had to laugh at the references to big hair and even bigger shoulder pads, stirrup pants, power suits and the eye-popping flash of ‘80s glitter. I could see it all in my memory.

Although it’s never mentioned, the song that kept running through my head while I was reading this book was “80s Ladies” by the late K.T. Oslin.

To me, those poignant lyrics describe this novel because Hannah not only nailed the fashion, she pulled something else from the past, too. Girls back then were expected to make something of their lives: go to college and kick out that glass ceiling, unlike the women before them who were expected to stay home and raise children. Hannah captures both sides of this equation, along with the pressure – both explicit and covert – to conform to expectations. Yes, there were opportunities to be had, chances to grab the shiny brass ring, but there were lies, too.

The biggest lie? You can have it all.

Hannah’s books are about life: good, bad, ugly, messy, unfinished and imperfect. She is a deceptively subtle storyteller; she can take you by the hand and show you a soft summer night and you don’t notice the sharp rocks until you’re lying in the middle of the road bleeding.

On the surface, “Firefly Lane” is a book about a friendship between two women, but it’s also an essay about women, and what we decide our lives are going to be and how we make those decisions. Every woman should ask herself if she’s doing what she wants to do, or what she’s expected to do.

For those who have followed the Netflix series, be aware that the plotline of the book and the show are not the same. “Fly Away” (2013) is the sequel to “Firefly Lane.” For more about Hannah or her books, visit kristinhannah.com online.

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