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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Female Friendship

Comedian Chris Rock, in an HBO special which aired after 1999’s Columbine High School massacre, observed that the two murderers were supposedly depressed because they had only six friends. “I didn’t have six friends in high school,” Rock said. “I don’t have six friends now.”

Novelist Kristin Hannah has made a name for herself in the world of contemporary women’s fiction by exploring female friendship, with 2009’s Firefly Lane focusing on the lifelong bond between Kate Ryan and Tully Hart. Firefly Lane is the street where they grew up.

Hannah, who lives in the state of Washington, where many of her stories are set, is coming to Huntington next week as part of her book tour for Fly Away (St. Martin’s Press). It is the follow-up to her New York Times bestseller Firefly Lane. One critic compared Firefly Lane favorably to Iris Dart’s Beaches, a novel adapted into a film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

Before coming to Long Island, Hannah will be in Manhattan on Tuesday, April 23, Fly Away’s official publication date, at the Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th St., at 7 p.m. She will then travel on Thursday, April 25, to Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, at 7 p.m. for a talk and book signing.

One of the theories I’ve developed about soap operas and cable TV networks that appeal to women, such as Lifetime, is that it is all about the bed: who’s in it, how did they get there, and is there someone lying next to them who you didn’t expect to see there. Hannah’s Fly Away has plenty of such moments, with one of the novel’s main characters ending up in a hospital bed because of an auto accident, and another landing in her godmother’s bed with a guy wearing more make-up than Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Fly Away chronicles the epic aftermath of Kate’s death, and how it sends Tully into a personal and professional tailspin, and Marah, Kate’s daughter, into the arms of a mascara-wearing man. They met in a group grief counseling session, in case you were wondering how that happened.

Kate was married and had three children while Tully, the love of her life having wed another woman, became a nationally renowned television personality. Tully walked away from her popular TV program, The Girlfriend Hour, to care for the cancer-stricken Kate in the final months of Kate’s life, a decision that comes back to haunt Tully. There’s also an extended sub-plot in Fly Away involving Tully’s estranged mother, Dorothy, whose lifetime addictions to alcohol and marijuana lead Dorothy to another bed, this one at a rehabilitation center.

In her official bio, Hannah volunteers that she and her mother, who was hospitalized while suffering from cancer, spent two months together during that time co-authoring a historical romance that was not ready for prime time. A bed again took center stage for Hannah’s writing years ago when she was placed on five-months’ bed rest while pregnant with her son.

There’s a missive posted at Kristin Hannah’s Facebook page which says “Reminder: Your Girlfriends Will Probably Outlive Your Husband. So Find Good Ones.’ The actuarial tables say that’s generally what occurs in real life, but it wasn’t the case for the fictional Kate Ryan.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: