Sorry To Say, The Firefly Lane Book Ending Takes A Heartbreaking Turn

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by Ani Bundel
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Firefly Lane, Netflix’s star-studded family drama/emotional cryfest, is based on author Kristin Hannah’s novel of the same name. Released in 2008, the Firefly Lane book became a massive bestseller, even spawning a sequel (Fly Away). But although the Netflix series includes the same characters, Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart, and somewhat follows the novel’s overall trajectory, there are significant differences onscreen. The biggest change is that Season 1 never reached the Firefly Lane book ending. Instead, Season 1 ended barely halfway through the story, which left a lot more to explore in Season 2.

Warning: Spoilers for Firefly Lane Season 2, Part 1, and the Firefly Lane novel follow. The first thing fans of the TV series will discover when they read is that the book is told linearly. Both the series and the book begin with a young Tully’s arrival on Kate’s street, Firefly Lane, with her mom, Cloud. But where the series jumps around in time — from the girls’ teen years to their adult lives in 2003 — the first section of the 500-page novel focuses exclusively on the period of 1974, as Kate and Tully go from virtual strangers to “TullyandKate.”

Moreover, although the book then tracks through the 1980s and to 2003, the Netflix series has significant changes. For example, the “love triangle” between Tully, Kate, and Johnny is downplayed on the show. Fans knew early on that Johnny and Kate would get together while Tully was distracted by other relationships. In the book, however, Tully’s relationship with Max doesn’t exist, nor does her marriage or miscarriage. Johnny and Kate didn’t get divorced, and he didn’t leave for Iraq. Instead, the three are stuck in the same unhealthy dynamic from their KCPO-TV days, with Kate convinced Johnny was secretly in love with Tully, despite being married to him for over a decade.


But the most significant change was that the Netflix series completely altered the novel’s central moment, Tully and Kate’s massive falling out. In the book, it happened when Kate appeared on The Girlfriend Hour for a segment on mothers and daughters. Kate thought it would celebrate her relationship with her daughter, Marah, only to be blindsighted when it was all about mothers who are unhealthy and controlling, followed by Tully putting Kate’s choices as a mother on blast. Their conversation turned ugly, both saying unforgivable things (live! on! air!). Tully’s ratings collapsed, and The Girlfriend Hour was canceled. Kate blamed Tully for treating her horribly, while Tully blamed Kate for her show being canceled.

The series completely upended this in Season 2. The falling out occurred after Tully got in a car accident while over the legal blood-alcohol limit, with Marah in the passenger seat. There were extenuating circumstances; Tully was rescuing Marah from being assaulted at a frat party, and she wasn’t at fault in the crash, but the facts remained that Tully put Marah’s life in danger. Tully knew she was in the wrong, too, and she begged Kate for forgiveness, which never happened in the book.

That leaves fans asking if the show will alter how Kate and Tully reconcile. Season 2, Part 1 ended with Kate discovering she has Stage 4 breast cancer, which is true to the book. Whether or not that means Kate will pass away with Tully by her side, having cared for her throughout her ordeal, remains to be seen. The show has stuck to the novel’s main plot points, so chances are Kate will not survive, but how it happens will only be revealed in Firefly Lane Season 2, Part 2.

Until then, all episodes of Firefly Lane Season 1 and Season 2, Part 1 are streaming on Netflix.

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