Note: This review contains spoilers of Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. If you have not read that book and plan to, prior to reading the sequel, Fly Away, then I suggest you stop reading now!
Firefly Lane is probably one of Kristin Hannah’s best-known books, following the friendship – both the ups and downs – of “TullyandKate,” who meet as pre-teens and weather the storms of friendship, until Kate succumbs to breast cancer in her mid-40s.
Fly Away picks up 4 years after Kate’s death, and her family has fallen apart without her. Her husband, Johnny, and daughter, Mara, have had a falling out, causing Mara to drop out of school and run away with a boy she met at a support group for grieving teens. Tully has committed career suicide by walking away from her extremely successful talk show during Kate’s cancer, making her unemployable. Tully’s part in Johnny and Mara’s estrangement begins a downward spiral that culminates with driving her car into a concrete stanchion, which is where the novel begins.
Johnny and Mara, the only family Tully has ever known, come to her bedside, along with Dorothy, Tully’s estranged mother who makes only brief appearances in Firefly Lane. While Tully’s broken body lies in a hospital bed, her spirit hovers somewhere above, telling her version of the last 4 years’ events to Kate, who has come to Tully’s aide. The story also unfolds through Johnny’s, Mara’s and even Dorothy’s points of view, filling in the gaps that Tully doesn’t know.
This is far from a happy book. Tully, Johnny and Mara are dealing with the loss of Kate, and Dorothy relives her own troubled childhood and the mistakes she made with Tully. The characters all drown their sorrows in drugs and/or alcohol, and run away from each other instead of talking through their problems. Only Kate’s mom, Margie, is a voice of reason, and Kate herself is viewed as a saint, as the deceased often are.
While several events from Firefly Lane are revisited, there are other events that are alluded to without detail. I feel it would be best to read that novel first before reading Fly Away. I chose not to re-read Firefly Lane, in the interest of time, and there were a few times I was confused, since it’s been almost 3 years since my first reading.
Notes on the audiobook: Fly Away is narrated by Susan Ericksen, who also read Firefly Lane (which I also listened to), and she does a wonderful job with the different characters. Whether reading the dialog for teenage Mara or beaten-down Dorothy, she nails the nuances of each character.