BOOK VS. FILM: Firefly Lane – The Case for Non-Linear Storytelling

After finishing the first season of “Firefly Lane,” I couldn’t resist sending a WhatsApp message to my daughter: ” If you ever want to see what kind of teenager I was, you should check out ‘Firefly Lane.’ your mum was Kate during her teens and early twenties – the looks, behaviour, the whole package!” To my amusement, she responded with, “Not really my cup of tea for a TV show.” I guess her reaction is just like what Kate’s daughter, Marah, might say!

Anyway, after binge-watching the entire two-season show, I also felt compelled to dive into the book. I’ve always been a fan of Kristin Hannah’s work, especially “The Nightingale,” which I adored. Anything revolving around friendships between women has always appealed to me. So, I decided to download the book on my Kindle and give it a go.

After just a few chapters, I realised that this book provides an excellent opportunity to compare it with the TV show, so here goes my perspective!

The Book

In the whirlwind summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey found herself at the bottom of the eighth-grade social ladder. But guess what? The universe had a surprise for her – the “coolest girl in the world” moves in just across the street and wants to be her friend! Tully Hart is like the whole package – beautiful, smart, and full of ambition.

Despite being total opposites, they become inseparable besties and promise to be friends forever! And their journey spans over three decades in the ever-changing Pacific Northwest. “Firefly Lane,” tells the heartwarming and powerful story of these two women and the incredible friendship that shapes their lives.

Tully is one determined soul from the get-go. She’s got a burning need to prove herself to the world. Growing up without a mom’s love, she longs for that unconditional affection. In the flashy eighties, she was all about seeking validation from guys, and in the nineties, she was hooked on television news. She chases her dreams like there’s no tomorrow, reaching for fame and success but also feels lonely.

Kate, on the other hand – has her own dreams too. Sure, she may not think her life will be extraordinary, but she secretly yearns for love, kids, and ordinary life. Deep down, she’s just as driven as Tully, even if she doesn’t show it in the same flashy way. But life has its surprises, and being a wife and mum changes her more than she could ever imagine. And, well, she can’t help but feel a twinge of envy for her famous bestie.

Through thick and thin, Tully and Kate stick together, weathering the storms of friendship – jealousy, anger, hurt, and all that jazz. They think they’ve faced it all until an act of betrayal threatens to tear them apart! Their courage and friendship are put to the ultimate test.


My Review

The heart of the book lies in the remarkable friendship between Tully and Kate, and there’s something truly special about a novel that celebrates female bonds. You can clearly see why they became friends, and it’s fascinating to witness their growth and development, even though sometimes they remain unchanged.

Let’s dive into Tully’s character now. She’s quite complex and, honestly, not always the easiest to warm up to. Most people would label her as a narcissist and obnoxious or, in short… a Bitch. But, you know what? Despite her flaws, there’s something truly admirable about her relentless pursuit of becoming a successful journalist. Like me, navigating my career during the 80s, I remember how women were under immense pressure to excel in whatever they defined their career, lock down their emotions (and heart) and match the focus and ruthlessness often expected from men. 

However, Tully’s self-centeredness can sometimes be overwhelming and come at a price. Sure, we can understand her struggles with her troubled relationship with her mother, which might evoke sympathy. But, at the same time, it’s challenging to embrace her and her behaviour fully. 

On the other hand, there’s Kate, the epitome of the good girl. She marries, raises children, and dedicates herself to being a stay-at-home mom. She’s incredibly giving to her core, although she does have some regrets about certain choices and occasionally feels a tinge of jealousy towards Tully’s different type of success. Kate appears selfless, putting her passion for writing aside to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, and friend.

One challenge with the book is that these two women often come across as stereotypes – one is “good,” and the other is “bad.” They seem to embody conventional versus daring but lack the full complexity of real, flesh-and-blood characters. Tully is mainly depicted as a calculating climber who occasionally shows generosity, especially with her massive wealth. She becomes a role model to Marah, her best friend’s daughter (who happens to be her goddaughter), as she has more exciting stories and gifts to offer than the girl’s own mother.

On top of that, I must admit the book’s length might feel a tad overwhelming, stretching beyond 400 pages. It makes you wonder why it needs to be this long. While it covers 30 years, some parts could have been trimmed down or even left out altogether.

I found much of the plot to be predictable – the way the characters behave and their values. The friends go through numerous fights and reconciliations. For instance, during their college years, Tully lashes out at Kate, questioning why she hangs out with her, while Kate’s teenage daughter rebels. Kate’s parents age, and Tully tries to reconnect with her drug-addicted, hippie mother. It becomes challenging to envision what truly binds them together after two decades, besides their dramatic beginnings on Firefly Lane.

TV Show

The story, in a nutshell, follows the same essence as the book. Tully (played by Katherine Heigl) shines as the rebellious and vibrant one, with a past marked by visible and explicit challenges. On the other hand, Kate (portrayed by Sarah Chalke) is the quieter and more cautious friend, whose past hides its difficulties in less apparent ways. While Tully dedicates herself to her career as a talk show host, Kate, despite being a TV producer, finds her focus on domestic life, raising her teenage daughter.

Oh, and let’s not forget about Johnny (played by Ben Lawson), the hotshot producer who plays a vital role in both their lives and eventually becomes Kate’s husband. Through thick and thin, they support each other – from joyous moments to heartbreak, from wild table-dancing nights to sharing tales of disastrous and promising boyfriends.

Their bond is truly special, and it’s heartwarming to witness their unwavering friendship, no matter what life throws their way. They are each other’s confidants, always there to lift each other up and share the rollercoaster of life together.


The TV show took a daring and exciting approach to adapt the book by turning its linear story into a non-linear one, where we jump between different decades. 

In the book, the story unfolds decade by decade, following the friendship of Tully and Kate in a linear fashion. However, the TV series takes a creative approach by mixing up the timelines, jumping between the 1970s when they were teenagers (played by Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis), the 1980s when they were in their twenties and the early 2000s when they were in their forties dealing with midlife challenges.

And here’s the cool part – these transitions are seamlessly woven together, putting their earlier and later selves in conversation with each other. It keeps us, as viewers, constantly guessing and adds a delightful element of wit to the storytelling.

This refreshing change in approach makes the series even more enjoyable and engaging. It’s great to see how the characters’ past and present experiences intertwine, giving us a deeper and richer understanding of their journey.

Some speculate that this choice was made to feature the famous actresses (Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke) from the very beginning, rather than introducing unknown actors portraying the characters as teenagers and then making a transition later. Whatever the reason, it works like a charm! The decision adds an extra layer of excitement to the show and keeps us hooked right from the start. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s all about making the story more captivating for the audience!


Due to the non-linear structure, some changes naturally had to be made (as is common in any adaptation). One of the significant changes involves the role of Johnny, Kate’s husband. In the book, after they tie the knot, they remain happily married without any separation. Kate’s parents also approve of him right from the start.

His role in the book is relatively minor, primarily serving as a means to fulfil Kate’s desire for love, marriage, and starting a family. The only issue that arises is Kate’s doubts about his love for her and a hint of jealousy, as Johnny had a one-night stand with Tully in the past.

Johnny’s character takes on a much deeper role in the TV show. He becomes more than just a husband; his passion for becoming a war correspondent is highlighted, something that was present in the book but not tied to a separation storyline. However, the main addition is Johnny’s backstory, especially his relationship with his own parents, especially his dad. This aspect is entirely absent in the book.

These changes in the TV series offer us a fresh and more intricate perspective on Johnny’s character, adding depth and complexity to his role in the story.  It’s an exciting addition that gives the show a new dimension and keeps us even more invested in the characters’ lives and relationships.

Let’s talk about another change that was made in the TV show – the role of Tully’s grandmother. In the book, Tully’s grandmother played a significant part in her early life, and Tully deeply missed her when she passed away. However, in the TV series, her grandmother is portrayed as a strict and religious woman, whom Tully couldn’t stand. This change seems to serve the purpose of giving more prominence to Tully’s mother, Cloud, and providing an explanation for her rebellion against her own mother.

By showcasing this new dynamic between Tully’s grandmother and her mother, Cloud, the show delves deeper into Tully’s family background. It gives us a better understanding of the struggles she faced growing up and the reasons behind her choices and actions. This change adds depth to Tully’s character and makes the story more compelling for viewers, as we get to explore the complexities of her relationships and how they shaped her journey.

Another noteworthy change in the TV show revolves around Tully’s documentary movie. In the book, the documentary serves as a means for Tully to reconnect with her mother, Cloud. However, in the TV series, as Cloud plays a more prominent role (at least more than in the first book), the focus of the documentary shifts to the search for her father. The outcome remains somewhat similar, as Tully doesn’t manage to connect with either of her parents in the end.

The most significant change the TV show has made revolves around the topic of betrayal between Tully and Kate. This betrayal has shattered their thirty-year-long friendship to the point of no return. For a betrayal to have such a profound impact, it must be a powerful one. However, although the betrayal appears dramatic in the TV show, it doesn’t carry the same weight as in the book. When watching the TV show, the reason for the betrayal doesn’t quite justify the harsh reaction of Kate. On the other hand, when you read about it in the book, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this betrayal would indeed break the relationship between these two women.


One of the additions to the TV show is the storyline of Tully’s instant marriage with Max and her miscarriage. In the book, it’s Kate who experiences a miscarriage before her pregnancy with Marah. However, the TV series chose to create a whole new plot for Tully, where a one-night stand unexpectedly leads to a marriage and pregnancy that ends with a miscarriage. For a fleeting moment, Tully contemplates choosing love and relationship over her career. This addition casts Tully in a more favourable light, as in the book, she comes across as a cold-hearted, obnoxious narcissist whose sole focus is on her career. Her softer side is only revealed in her relationship with Kate.

With this new storyline, Tully becomes a more vulnerable and relatable character, making it easier for viewers to connect with her on a deeper level. It humanises her and adds layers to her personality, beyond her ambition and professional success.

Another interesting addition to the TV show was a result of the changes in Johnny and Kate’s storyline. In the book, once they began dating and got married, they remained together until the end. However, in the TV series, they introduced a divorce following Johnny’s desire to work as a war correspondent in dangerous zones. Moreover, before their marriage, Johnny’s hesitation to propose led to a breakup, as Kate couldn’t see a future with him, even though they loved each other deeply. This alteration allowed the scriptwriters to explore another love relationship with an English guy for Kate.

This new storyline adds depth to Kate’s character, making her even more powerful and assertive. It shows that she knows exactly what she wants, even if it’s not solely focused on her career, and she fearlessly takes bold steps to pursue her goals.

The major additions to the TV show were focused on adapting the story to the era of 2020 and reflecting the social changes we’ve witnessed since the book was written in 2008. Two significant changes stand out.

Firstly, Kate’s brother, Sean, who was barely mentioned in the book, becomes a secondary character in the TV series with his own storyline and character arc. Reflecting the 2020 era, Sean’s character is portrayed as a gay individual, and the show delves into the challenges he faced growing up in the 80s, especially with the fear of AIDS and living in a rural area. This addition allows us to explore the choices he had to make and the struggles he endured.

Secondly, the TV show addresses Tully’s sexual harassment storyline, which is absent in the book. Given the impact of the #MeToo movement, it’s not surprising to see such a significant issue being brought to light when depicting women’s careers in show business during the 80s and 90s. This addition provides a more realistic and relevant portrayal of the challenges women faced in those industries during that time.

By incorporating these elements, the TV show presents a more updated and inclusive narrative, acknowledging the evolving societal perspectives and shedding light on important issues that were not explored in the original book. These additions make the show more relevant and relatable to contemporary audiences while enriching the storytelling and character development.


This one was an easy one. While I genuinely enjoy Kristin Hannah’s writing and find it engaging, I must say the TV show is a remarkable example of how a simple change in structure, from linear to non-linear, can transform an average story into something captivating, engaging, and downright exciting.

The non-linear approach opened up opportunities to develop additional storylines that beautifully supported the journeys of the two main characters, Tully and Kate. It was a chance for Kate to shine even brighter, breaking free from the “good-girl” stereotype that confined her in the book. Her character gained power and visibility, making her even more compelling to watch.

As for Tully, the non-linear structure gave us glimpses of her vulnerable side, making her appear less of a “bitch” than she was portrayed in the book. It humanised her character, showing us the complexities of her personality and allowing us to empathise with her struggles and emotions.

In the end, the choice to shift to a non-linear storyline turned a predictable tale into an exciting and unpredictable adventure. Viewers found themselves constantly guessing what would happen next, making the experience all the more thrilling. It truly took the story and its characters to new heights, making it a fantastic and immersive journey for all the viewers.


Now it’s YOUR turn – Tell us what you think about the non-linear structure – does it support a story or hinder it?


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