As Bright as Heaven: Book summary and reviews of As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven

by Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Feb 6, 2018
    400 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In As Bright As Heaven, Susan Meissner had penned an original and vivid portrayal of a family in Philadelphia during the Great War and the flu pandemic of 1918. With stunning prose and keen detail, Meissner has deftly created a heady mix of love, politics and survival—a family saga, coming of age tale and riveting historical fiction all in one. A must read!" - Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale
 
"From the unthinkable tragedy of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic to the glittering speakeasies of the roaring twenties, Susan Meissner delivers a story of one family's heartbreak and hope. Strong, resilient, and determined to make their way in a changing world, Meissner's characters step off the page and into history." - Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours

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Reader Reviews

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Sue Z. (Cornelius, NC)

As Bright As Heaven
Susan Meissner's book "As Bright As Heaven" is about family or, more precisely, love of family. The Brights, mother, father and three daughters, have left their quiet Pennsylvania home to move to the bustling city of Philadelphia. Once there, this very close family has to gradually adjust to the many changes in their lives. Including those brought about by the start of World War I and the decimation caused by the Spanish Flu pandemic. Despite these trials they are able to find solace in each other and joy in the tiny baby they adopt. This is an ideal book for book clubs.

Patricia E. (Sugarcreek, OH)

Historical Fiction at It's Best
I learned to appreciate historical fiction through the words of Susan Meissner, so I was delighted to open As Bright As Heaven. In this captivating story, the author uses both World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic as her backdrop. The novel is told alternately among Mrs. Bright and her three daughters as they leave rural Pennsylvania and move to Philadelphia. There Mr. Bright has accepted an offer to work in his uncle's mortuary and live in the attached residence.

This setting gives each character a unique perspective on death and the lives it leaves behind. Having already lost a young son and brother, the Bright family members are learning how to survive and thrive in one of the world's darkest eras. For me, though, the novel contains more light than dark, greater hope than despair and is the best of Meissner's books to date.

Candace F. (Lincoln, NE)

Not to be missed!
If you are a fan of historical fiction this book should be at the top of your list. After reading The Nightingale I didn't think there would be a book I liked as well but this book has proven me wrong. This book is so well written that as I read it became a motion picture playing in my mind. The setting of the Pandemic of the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 was a topic I had read little about. It takes place in a mortuary in Philadelphia at the time of the outbreak and Great War and the story of the Bright family. The author developed the characters so well I feel like I knew them personally. When I had finished reading the book and asked myself who was my favorite character, my answer was "all of them".

Since I read this book I have read two other books by Susan Meissner. She is definitely one of my favorite authors. As Bright As Heaven will definitely be a book I recommend to all my friends and a book choice for my book group. This is one I will read again.

Amy E. (Delaware, OH)

As Bright As Heaven
The book is set in Philadelphia in 1918 during the Spanish Flu epidemic. The author tells the story through the voices of Pauline Bright and her 3 daughters. By telling the story of a very difficult time from the perspective of the different ages, the author keeps the reader engaged and even hopeful. She peppers the story with insights that offer hope for humanity in the event of another pandemic. I enjoyed the book and was sad to see my involvement with the Bright family ending. Much of this was due to Ms. Meissner's writing. I would recommend the book and plan to have my gook club read it and I will also review it for another book club of which I am a member.

Patricia L. (Seward, AK)

True Endurance
"The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 was the deadliest disease in history...Fifty million people worldwide are estimated to have died from Spanish Flu." acknowledges author Susan Meissner. Her novel As Bright As Heaven chronicles the disease through one family's experiences. Pauline and Thomas are moving to Philadelphia to take over Uncle Fred's undertaking business. No longer do families care for the deceased in their own homes. Now they deliver the body to the undertaker, allow him to do all the preparation and funeral planning. What is thought to be a new beginning for them and their three daughters begins to unravel as friends and family begin to fall ill. The story unfolds slowly at first but each character is well known by the time the unraveling begins.
I found this book fascinating and difficult to put down. While we generally remember 1918-19 as the time period of the Great War, which also figures prominently in the novel, the Spanish Flu is usually a mere footnote to the time. This novel puts these events in grisly perspective with the intimate telling of one family's story and leaves one to wonder how others, possibly those close, were similarly impacted. Highly recommended to gain a most humbling respect for those who endured the era.

Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

Decisions
This story is all about choices and decisions. Very sweet story about family, tragedies and how people deal with life.

...24 more reader reviews

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Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Fall of Marigolds, Secrets of a Charmed Life, Stars over Sunset Boulevard, and A Bridge Across the Ocean among other novels. Visit her at susanllmeissner.com and facebook.com/susan.meissner.

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