Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)
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.
Home isn’t a place where everything stays the same; it’s a place where you are safe and loved despite nothing staying the same. Change always happens. Always.
As Bright as Heaven is a beautiful story about love, loss, and the surprising strength that can be found within during the darkest of times.
When I think of 1918, what first comes to mind are the soldiers fighting for their lives on the battlefield, not the even deadlier war being fought on the homefront against disease and the despair it trails in its wake. Susan Meissner offers a window into a tragedy that often gets overshadowed in the history books, and she does so in the most human way possible: introducing us to a family that must rise from the ashes and mold themselves into something new.
Thomas and Pauline Bright make the difficult decision to uproot their lives and move to Philadelphia after the death of their son in order to ensure a more stable future for their three daughters. But soon after the Bright family settles into the bustle of the city, the Spanish influenza settles in, as well. Spanning the course of nearly a decade, As Bright as Heaven is very much a coming-of-age story for the girls of the Bright family as they navigate the tricky waters of adolescence and adulthood, along with burdens far more troublesome than any young adult should have to bear.
Meissner’s writing is incomparable. Her rich metaphors and vivid imagery instantly transport you a century into the past, and I was fascinated by the constant personifications of fate and death that linger hauntingly. It’s so easy to feel connected to these well-developed characters and their struggles. All of the women have distinct personalities and aspirations: determined Pauline, thoughtful Evelyn, passionate Maggie, and spirited Willa. The point of view alternates between each of them, yet the story flows seamlessly and I had such a hard time putting it down.
As Bright as Heaven will tug at your heartstrings from start to finish. It is a brutally realistic take on a dark, unforgiving period in American history, yet optimism and hope are prevalent even when all seems lost. I simply can’t recommend this story enough; you won’t regret one moment of this thoughtful and captivating tale.