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As Bright as Heaven

by Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner X
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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There are currently 42 reader reviews for As Bright as Heaven
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Julia A. (New York, NY)

A Most Engaging Reading Experience
I was stunned by how much I enjoyed this book! Susan Meissner is so skilled at writing from multiple points of view that I am left in awe of her talent. The four female characters (Pauline, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa) who tell the story in alternating chapters captured my attention and interest from the first page. Add in some truly memorable male characters (especially Jamie, and though he has a very minor role, Mr. Weiss) and "As Bright as Heaven" becomes a book with wide appeal. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 is practically a character in this work of historical fiction, given that it is the flu that influences just about all that takes place for the Bright family. Above all else, though, for me, this is a book about love in its many manifestations. As Pauline comments midway through the book: "If we were made of stone or iron, we would be impervious to disease and injury and disaster, but then we could not give love and receive love, could we? We'd be unable to feel anything at all, and surely incapable of spreading our wings and flying…" These characters to a person give and receive love, and the sisters Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa, surely spread their wings and fly in three very diverse fields, psychiatry, mortuary work, and jazz. Loving parents support most of the children in the novel, and, were it not for the flu and World War I, their lives would be too perfect to believe. But the history against which the novel is set lends a necessary dose of reality.

So, cancel your appointments for a day and settle in to read "As Bright as Heaven." You won't be sorry.
Linda Z. (Melville, NY)

Making Choices
I love the vivid descriptions of the setting and the characters in "As Bright As Heaven" by Susan Meissner. The genres for this story are Historical Fiction and Fiction. The story setting for this story is mostly in Philadelphia, and some other areas as described in the story. The timeline of the story is around 1918, when there is the Spanish flu epidemic and carries through the Great War, World War One, and after.

The characters are described as complex complicated and confused, mostly dictated by the devastating times. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia to hope for a better life, where the husband will be working in his Uncle's Funeral Home. Pauline Bright has lost her baby son, so this move for her family looks like it could be positive. Despite the fact that men are headed to fight in The Great War, the possiblility of the new move for Pauline, her husband and three daughters seems like a wonderful chance and new beginnings.

The Spanish flu epidemic has grasped hold of much of the country and soon schools and public places are closed. There are many deaths. The funeral home doesn't have space for all the deceased bodies. Moving to Philadelphia, where the population is greater, and there are so many sick people may not have been such a great choice.

Pauline volunteers to go to the poorer part of town to deliver food and materials to sick people. Her daughter accompanies her. While Pauline goes to one of the apartments, Maggie hears the cries of a young baby. She sees that the mother is dead, and brings the baby to her mother Who will care for the little boy?

Despite the heartbreaks and challenges, the family looks at the choices they have to make. Are there really all good choices, or all bad choices?

I appreciate the historical research that Susan Meissner has done for this time period. The Spanish Flu doesn't discriminate between the rich and poor, or the young or old. I also love that the author discusses the importance of family, friends, good neighbors, loyalty, courage, kindness, being helpful, love, hope and faith. I would highly recommend this book for readers of Historical Fiction. I received an Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.
Cheryl P. (Lebanon, PA)

As Bright as Heaven
A beautifully written story of the life of the Bright sisters and their family. I love how the author brought the story to life by each of the sisters and their mother. The struggles they faced before and after they moved to Philadelphia and how they each grew independently but connected to each other by such a force of undeniable love. Love, tragedy, heart-ache, death, renewal, it is all here. Was very insightful to a time of Pennsylvania history I didn't know much about.
Power Reviewer Diane S. (Batavia, IL)

As bright as Heaven
1918, Philadelphia, a city with many opportunities, a city that the Bright family, Pauline, Thomas and their three daughters move to for just that purpose. Thomas's elderly, childless uncle wants them to live in his large house, and for Thomas to train and takeover his mortuary business. Leaving Quakertown behind, this is what the family looks forward to, a new and better life, especially after the tragedy of a terrific loss.

I fell in love with this family, and we hear individually from each of them in alternating chapters. Things look promising for them but then the Spanish flu comes to call, an unwelcome Spector that causes further loss. Such a winning combination of characters, history and a first hand look at the devastation of War. The Spanish flu hit Philadelphia extremely hard, the hardest in the nation and caused untold hardship and heartache for many. The Bright family will lose much but also gain a baby in an unusual manner, and this child will keep the family moving forward.

We watch as the girls grow, but there is a secret one is keeping that will come back to haunt. Prohibition is also instated at this time so we also are treated to a look at some of the results of this act. This is a wonderfully told story, rich in family, love, and history. So many details make this book stand out, details for n the mortuary business and in everyday lives. Sorrows and hurts, joys and happiness. An immersive story that tugs at the heart.
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.

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