Firefly Lane actors Katherine Hagel and Sarah Chalke

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

“Firefly Lane”: The Book vs. the Netflix Series

“Firefly Lane” on Netflix proves that a series can get just as much hype as the book. Based on the much-loved novel by Kristin Hannah, “Firefly Lane” is the coming-of-age story of two best friends, Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke). The most amazing part? Many viewers seem to have loved it just as much, and it spent weeks on the Netflix Top 10 list.

Although both the novel and the series follow the friendship over three decades through family drama, romantic escapades and more, there are some major differences in the storylines.

(Note: Spoilers ahead!)

The timeline

While the novel tells Tully and Kate’s story chronologically, the Netflix series jumps back and forth using fashion and hair choices to clue the viewer in to the time. Much of the series is spent on the flashbacks and it covers only about half of the book. That, plus the fact that there’s a sequel to the novel—”Fly Away”—has left viewers hungry for a second season, which hasn’t yet been confirmed by Netflix.

Kate and Johnny

In the book, unlike the Netflix series, Kate and Johnny never get divorced, only separated. Although both versions hint that Johnny might be secretly in love with Tully, Kate’s love life plays out very differently. In the series, Kate navigates dating other men.

There’s also a big difference about Kate’s children. In the series, Kate has one daughter, Marah, and in the book she and Johnny also have twin boys.

Tully and Max

In the series, Tully has a series of romantic trysts with Max and becomes pregnant. Although she declines his first proposal, Tully surprised many viewers when she had a change of heart, then tracked him down at work to propose herself.

The two get married, but Tully has a miscarriage and the marriage quickly disintegrates. If you haven’t read the book, you might be disappointed to learn that Max doesn’t exist in the book at all. So, although Tully is ultimately single in both, it plays out a little differently.

Kate’s brother, Sean

Kate’s brother, Sean, is a fairly different character in the series. In the book, he’s a few years younger than Kate, but in the series he’s older. He also has a far more prominent role in the series and a much deeper friendship with Tully, who finds out he’s gay in their teens and keeps it a secret from everyone, including Kate. In the book, his sexuality isn’t a focus and there weren’t any indications he was gay.

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Cloud never redeems herself in the book

Tully’s mother, Cloud, ultimately gets a redemption arc in the series, coming to comfort Tully after her miscarriage and even being part of a Christmas celebration with Kate’s family. However, in the book this doesn’t happen. Although Tully makes attempts to track down her mother and get her help, Cloud never does more than ask for money or steal from Tully and then disappears again.

The series does seem to have borrowed some of the additional detail about Cloud from the book’s sequel, because Cloud’s character—and her relationship with Tully—is much more developed in the series than in the first novel.

The ending

Perhaps the biggest difference between the book and the series is the ending. The series ends in a big cliffhanger: Why did Kate and Tully have a falling out? The series started with an ominous scene of Kate and Marah attending a funeral, and enough hints were dropped to leave viewers wondering if Tully is dead. For those who’d read the book, it’s even more confusing because it’s Kate who dies at the end of the book from terminal cancer.

In the series, we don’t know the cause of the rift between Kate and Tully, but in the book Kate goes on Tully’s TV show for a mother-daughter segment that quickly devolves into an attack on Kate for her overprotective parenting. Kate turns her anger on Tully and points out to the audience that Tully doesn’t know anything about having a loving family. The two are estranged until Tully learns Kate is dying, and they’re able to make amends before Kate dies. 

Season 2 vs. book 2?

Netflix announced at the end of May the season 2 renewal of “Firefly Lane” (hurray!). The cliffhanger with Kate’s father’s funeral at the end is obviously set up to anticipate another season. In the book’s sequel, the focus is how Tully, Johnny and Marah are coping with Kate’s death. There’s also a lot about Tully’s abandonment issues, which brings Cloud into the story more than in the first book. Needless to say, there’s plenty of material for the second season, considering the multiple storylines the series introduced. For “Firefly Lane” fans, the anticipation is real.

Program availability may have changed and is subject to change.

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