This review is based on a complimentary book I received from BookishFirst. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Womens Fiction
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Format: ARC, Hardcover
Purchase at: Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble ◊ Book Depository ◊ Google Play ◊ Kobo ◊ IndieBound ◊ Publisher
From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.
As Bright As Heaven starts in 1918 just before the onset of the Spanish flu pandemic and is told in different time periods. Some being month to month then the narration will skip a few years and then move around some more. This story begins after the devastating loss of Henry, the Bright’s youngest child. His death had profoundly affected this family and although Pauline Bright had made it through the loss of her son, she was changed after his death. Her husband had been given an opportunity to take over his uncle’s mortuary business and they decided that moving from Quakertown to Philadelphia would be a good thing for the family. Their daughters would have greater opportunities and with being a wife to an undertaker, Pauline felt she would be able to see death from a different perspective.
This story is told from multiple voices, the most predominate being that of Evelyn and Maggie Bright. Each character told their story as it affected them and was unique because they were all in different stages of life. Willa was six at the start of this story and her perspectives were that of a small child and how things revolved around herself. Maggie was twelve and had a keen view of the events taking place around her. Evelyn was the oldest at fifteen and she was more focused on educating herself and being a responsible sister and daughter. Pauline as a mother was focused on starting a life for her family in Philadelphia but she also wanted to understand death and why it seemed to walk beside her. She thought that coming to the funeral home would help her to better understand death.
Once they reached Philadelphia it was not long before the family started to feel the effects from World War one. Not only was the war devastating and families were losing loved ones but the Spanish influenza was starting to make its way through the war-torn population and slowly spreading its way out into the world. As the influenza pandemic picked up speed and spread throughout the world it finally made its way to Philadelphia and all the women in this story were affected by loss but the way each one was affected was unique from their perspective. Just considering the magnitude of what it must have been like to live during that time period is almost unfathomable. I could really feel the story through the details that were developed through the setting and the characters.
As Bright As Heaven affected me as a mother, as a sister, and as a woman. There were parts of this story that just pulled at my heart so deeply because I could not imagine how they lived with what was happening around them and I shuddered to think that I would ever have to deal with the situations that developed throughout this story. I had never considered the day to day life struggles that people went through during such a time. I loved the honesty that I felt from these characters, their struggles, their indecision, the choices that they made, and how they dealt with the outcomes. All the characters were well developed, complex, and grew from their circumstances. The writing was beautiful and expressive. It was not over the top with anguish although it was there but every story, every embrace, every tragedy was sincere in its expression. I was moved by As Bright As Heaven and I highly recommend this story!
*Thank you to BookishFirst & Berkley Publishing for this eARC of As Bright As Heaven*