Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than thirty years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. But stories end, don't they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on. . . .
Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kateto be there for Kate's childrenbut Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.
Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother's death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.
Dorothy Hartthe woman who once called herself Cloudis at the center of Tully's tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter's side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.
A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one anotherand maybe a miracleto transform their lives.
An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day.
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
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September 2, 2010
She felt a little woozy. It was nice, like being wrapped in a warm-from-the-dryer blanket. But when she came to, and saw where she was, it wasn’t so nice.
She was sitting in a restroom stall, slumped over, with tears drying on her cheeks. How long had she been here? She got slowly to her feet and left the bathroom, pushing her way through the theater’s crowded lobby, ignoring the judgmental looks cast her way by the beautiful people drinking champagne beneath a glittering nineteenth century chandelier. The movie must be over.
Outside, she kicked her ridiculous patent leather pumps into the shadows. In her expensive black nylons, she walked in the spitting rain down the dirty Seattle sidewalk toward home. It was only ten blocks or so. She could make it, and she’d never find a cab this time of night anyway.
As she approached Virginia Street, a bright pink MARTINI BAR sign caught her attention. A few people were clustered together outside the front door, smoking and talking beneath a protective overhang.
Even as she vowed to pass by, she found herself turning, reaching for the door, going inside. She slipped into the dark, crowded interior and headed straight for the long mahogany bar.
“What can I get for you?” asked a thin, artsy-looking man with hair the color of a tangerine and more hardware on his face than Sears carried in the nuts-and-bolts aisle.
“Tequila straight shot,” she said.
She drank the first shot and ordered another. The loud music comforted her. She drank the straight shot and swayed to the beat. All around her people were talking and laughing. It felt a little like she was a part of all that activity.
A man in an expensive Italian suit sidled up beside her. He was tall and obviously fit, with blond hair that had been carefully cut and styled. Banker, probably, or corporate lawyer. Too young for her, of course. He couldn’t be much past thirty-five. How long was he there, trolling for a date, looking for the best-looking woman in the room? One drink, two?
Finally, he turned to her. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he knew who she was, and that small recognition seduced her. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“I don’t know. Can you?” Was she slurring her words? That wasn’t good. And she couldn’t think clearly.
His gaze moved from her face, down to her breasts, and then back to her face. It was a look that stripped past any pretense. “I’d say a drink at the very least.”
“I don’t usually pick up strangers,” she lied. Lately, there were only strangers in her life. Everyone else, everyone who mattered, had forgotten about her. She could really feel that Xanax kicking in now, or was it the tequila?
He touched her chin, a jawline caress that made her shiver. There was a boldness in touching her; no one did that anymore. “I’m Troy,” he said.
She looked up into his blue eyes and felt the weight of her loneliness. When was the last time a man had wanted her?
“I’m Tully Hart,” she said.
He kissed her. He tasted sweet, of some kind of liquor, and of cigarettes. Or maybe pot. She wanted to lose herself in pure physical sensation, to dissolve like a bit of candy.
She wanted to forget everything that had gone wrong with her life, and how it was that she’d ended up in a place like this, alone in a sea of strangers.
“Kiss me again,” she said, hating the pathetic pleading she heard in her voice. It was how she’d sounded as a child, back when she’d been a little girl with her nose pressed to the window, waiting for her mother to return. What’s wrong with me? that little girl had asked anyone who would listen, but there had never been an answer. Tully reached out for him, pulling him close, but even as he kissed her and pressed his body into hers, she felt herself starting to cry, and when her tears started, there was no way to hold them back.
September 3, 2010
Tully was the last person to leave the bar. The doors banged shut behind her; the neon sign hissed and clicked off. It was past two now; the Seattle streets were empty. Hushed.
As she made her way down the slick sidewalk, she was unsteady. A man had kissed her—a stranger—and she’d started to cry.
Pathetic. No wonder he’d backed away.
Rain pelted her, almost overwhelmed her. She thought about stopping, tilting her head back, and drinking it in until she drowned.
That wouldn’t be so bad.
It seemed to take hours to get home. At her condominium building, she pushed past the doorman without making eye contact.
In the elevator, she saw herself in the wall of mirrors.
She looked terrible. Her auburn hair—in need of coloring—was a bird’s nest, and mascara ran like war paint down her cheeks.
The elevator doors opened and she stepped out into the hallway. Her balance was so off it took forever to get to her door, and four tries to get her key into the lock. By the time she opened the door, she was dizzy and her headache had come back.
Somewhere between the dining room and the living room, she banged into a side table and almost fell. Only a last-minute Hail Mary grab for the sofa saved her. She sank onto the thick, down-filled white cushion with a sigh. The table in front of her was piled high with mail. Bills and magazines.
She slumped back and closed her eyes, thinking what a mess her life had become.
“Damn you, Katie Ryan,” she whispered to the best friend who wasn’t there. This loneliness was unbearable. But her best friend was gone. Dead. That was what had started all of it. Losing Kate. How pitiful was that? Tully had begun to plummet at her best friend’s death and she hadn’t been able to pull out of the dive. “I need you.” Then she screamed it: “I need you!”
She let her head fall forward. Did she fall asleep? Maybe …
When she opened her eyes again, she stared, bleary-eyed, at the pile of mail on her coffee table. Junk mail, mostly; catalogs and magazines she didn’t bother to read anymore. She started to look away, but a picture snagged her attention.
She frowned and leaned forward, pushing the mail aside to reveal a Star magazine that lay beneath the pile. There was a small photograph of her face in the upper right corner. Not a good picture, either. Not one to be proud of. Beneath it was written a single, terrible word.
She grabbed the magazine in unsteady hands, opened it. Pages fanned one past another until there it was: her picture again.
It was a small story; not even a full page.
THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE RUMORS
Aging isn’t easy for any woman in the public eye, but it may be proving especially difficult for Tully Hart, the ex-star of the once-phenom talk show The Girlfriend Hour. Ms. Hart’s goddaughter, Marah Ryan, contacted Star exclusively. Ms. Ryan, 20, confirms that the fifty-year-old Hart has been struggling lately with demons that she’s had all her life. In recent months, Hart has “gained an alarming amount of weight” and been abusing drugs and alcohol, according to Ms. Ryan …
“Oh, my God…”
The betrayal hurt so badly she couldn’t breathe. She read the rest of the story and then let the magazine fall from her hands.
The pain she’d been holding at bay for months, years, roared to life, sucking her into the bleakest, loneliest place she’d ever been. For the first time, she couldn’t even imagine crawling out of this pit.
She staggered to her feet, her vision blurred by tears, and reached for her car keys.
She couldn't live like this anymore.
Copyright © 2013 by Kristin Hannah
Reading Group Guide
A Note from Kristin Hannah
In a lot of ways, Firefly Lane is the book that changed my career. Before it, I had already written eighteen novels, and really, I thought I knew who I was as a novelist. Then along came Tully and Kate. Following their story changed the way I saw my work. For the first time, I wrote a novel that spanned decades and touched on popular culture and delved into the relationship between best friends. The only viewpoints in the novel were the women's. Sure, there was a love story in Firefly Lane, but that was secondary. The real heart of Firefly Lane was the friendship between the women. The story incorporated a huge amount of my own life and my own history. It took me several years to write the novel.
When I finally finished, I was honestly exhausted.
But I always knew there was more to the story. It's the first and only time I've ever felt that way after finishing a novel. Usually, when I come to the final edit, I am ready to let the characters go into their happy-endings world. Firefly Lane was different. Tully and Cloud, in particular, haunted my thoughts, tugged at me. I couldn't quite let them go, even when I went on to write other novels.
One day, I just knew it was time to go back to Firefly Lane and check in. You'd think it would be easy to step back into a world you'd created, but it was surprisingly difficult to find my way back to this story and these characters. I should have seen the troubles coming. We all know how tough it can be to come home after years away, and that's what I found when I began Fly Away. There were too many stories to tell, too many ways for the characters' lives to go. It really threw me off my game. I tried draft after draft, story after story. I wrote so many versions of Tully and Cloud and Marah and Johnny that my head couldn't hold them all. I felt lost in the forest of too many choices. Every road I chose ended up leading me in the wrong direction. And then I realized what was missing: Kate. I simply couldn't write about these characters without Kate. In her life, she had been the glue that held them all together; without her, there was no way I could revisit her world. Of course, that presented a bit of a problem, since she died in Firefly Lane.
Fortunately, I am a spiritual person and I believe in much more than what I can see. So, once I realized what was wrong, I knew how to fix it. Even if it was a little . . . unorthodox, even if it asked my readers to accompany me on an extraordinary journey. In that moment, Fly Away took shape in my mind. It became a novel about what happens when the one person who matters to youthe person who holds a whole family togetheris lost. The funny thing is that I should have known it all along. After all, I wrote Firefly Lane as a tribute to my mom, who died of breast cancer when I was young. In Kate, I found a way to remember my mom. So, of course, I should have known that the sequel was about how you go on when the one you love is lost. When I found that theme, and the structure that accompanied it, I was able to do what I really wanted to do: write an emotionally powerful novel about familiar characters that stands on its own as opposed to a pure sequel. I don't think you have to read Firefly Lane first, but if you do, I think Fly Away is that much richer and more compelling.
Ideas for Book Groups
I truly believe in book groups. What's better than busy women taking an eveningor an afternoonto gather together and talk about life and love and family ... and books? What's not to love about this?
For your Fly Away meeting, here are a few suggestions to liven up the discussion:
It all started with Firefly Lane and friendship, so how about everyone brings a photo of their best friend and talks about how they met?
How about a little seventies or eighties style? Maybe each of you can dress in the style of your youth. For me, it was bell bottoms and tie-dye and banana clips and shoulder pads. What were you wearing when you met your best friend?
How about the food? I think it would be fun to bring appetizers from Dorothy's youth. You can find all sorts of recipes on appetizers from the fifties. Vienna sausages anyone? Onion soup and sour cream dip with potato chips? Let your creativity soar! Or maybe you'd rather bring something your mom made that you haven't had in years....
And please note:
In recent years, I've been able to "talk" to book groups via speakerphone during their meetings. What a blast! For so long, I wrote books and never really met anyone who had read them. It is such a joy to talk to women from all over the country. We talk about anything and everythingmy books, other books, best friends, kids, sisters. You name it, we'll discuss it. So if you belong to a book group and you've chosen Fly Away as your pick, please come on over to the Web site and set up a conversation with me. I can't promise to fulfill all the requests, but I will certainly do my best. And don't forget to join me on my blog and/or Facebook. I love talking to readers. The more the merrier!
1. First, a show of hands: Who among you has read Firefly Lane? For those who have not: Do you wish you had read it before this follow-up novel? Or does Fly Away stand on its own? Discuss your reasons. This might be a good time to fill the haven't-reads in on some plot pointsno spoilers!from Firefly Lane as well.
2. When we first see Tully in Fly Away, she is a wreck. Why do you think she's still so destroyed by her best friend's death? How did losing Kate contribute to Tully's loss of her own sense of self? And do you believe that one person can really be the glue that holds a whole life together?
3. In Firefly Lane, a dying Kate said these words to Tully: "You're afraid of love, but you've got so much of it to give." Is that true of the Tully we see in Fly Away? Is givingor finding or receivinglove a choice that Tully can just make or break? Why can't Tully believe in love?
4. Kate was deeply loved by her family. How do Johnny, Marah, the twins, and Margie cope with her loss? How does each character find a way to heal? Do they help or hinder each other? Do their struggles feel real to you as a reader? You may choose to share your own personal experiences if doing so seems relevant or even helpful.
5. At Kate's funeral, Johnny had "pushed through the crowd [and] passed several people, all of whom murmured some variation of the same useless wordssorry, suffering over, better place." What is the language of loss? How do we talk about death in everyday life? How do the characters do so in Fly Away?
6. A better place. Where is Kate in the world of this novel? How do her loved ones look for signs of herand how does she find a way to reach them? Again, talk about what feels real to you as a reader. What narrative devices did the author use to bring the more mystical elements of life, death, and life-after-death to the novel? Did Fly Away succeed in making you ...believe?
7. In Fly Away, the dark truth about Dorothy's past comes to light. "How could she explain to her daughter what she'd never been able to understand for herself? All her life she had tried to protect Tully from the truth ...It was too late to undo all that damage now." Do you believe that's true? Is it ever too late to tell the people you love about your past? Do you forgive Dorothy for Tully's abandonment? Do you understand why it happened?
8. "I wanted to become a woman the whole world admired," says Tully. "Without [fame] who would I be? Just a girl with no family who was easy to leave behind and put aside." Even though Tully enjoyed great success as a celebrity journalist, she had to pay a price: Her downfall unfolded on a national stage. Take a moment to talk about Tully's public persona versus her private one. How did being famous help Tully during her times of need? How did it hurt her? Do you believe that being a celebrity and being loved by strangers can truly make you happy?
9. Take the question above to another level: Why do we invest so much interest in celebrity culture? What passes for entertainment in the age of reality television? How do you think Tully, and Tully's celebrity, fits into the world as you see it now? Did Tully's fame and fortune contribute to her fall?
10. Fly Away is a novel about love and loss, family and friendship, and everything in between. It's also about the pursuit of the American Dream, offering glimpses into key events, trends, and cultural mores in our country's history. What did beingand becomingAmerican mean to Dorothy's Ukrainian parents? To Rafe Montoya? Talk about some of the cultural highlights (and lowlights) that are woven into Fly Awayfrom the freewheeling sixties and the Vietnam War to the material-girl eighties up to the present day. How does each character embrace or reject the so-called values of his or her era? What risks and benefits are involved?
11. Paxton and Marah. Rafe and Dorothy. Romeo and Juliet. "It seemed so romantic at first," Marah thinks. "All that ‘us against them.'" What is it about love that's forbidden that is so attractive to the characters in Fly Away? Why is the theme of ill-fated love so well represented in literature in general? Why do we love stories about love's triumph overeverything?
12. If you could ask the author anything about Fly Awayclarification on a plot point, a detail about a particular character, scenes from the cutting-room floorwhat would it be? (You may choose to contact Kristin Hannah, via Facebook, and ask her!)