Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Review: As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

Title: As Bright As Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner
Published: February 2018, Berkley Books
Format: Hardcover, 387 pages
Source: 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.

My thoughts: This is only the second book I've read by Susan Meissner and I once again found myself completely captivated by it. I've read other books about the Spanish Flu but not one that was as deeply emotional or affecting as this one.

I loved the way this story was structured. The first half of the book focuses on the Spanish Flu pandemic and then the second half focuses on the aftermath and how the Bright family learns to live after the pandemic is over. The flu itself managed to kill more people than those killed in the first world war and unfortunately, many times it was the healthy that succumbed to this dreadful disease. I also loved that the story was told in alternating voices of the Bright family - the mother and the three daughters. I felt this really allowed a stronger emotional attachment to be made with each of the characters.

This book is such a good example of what good historical fiction is all about. Susan Meissner has taken historical events - the Spanish Flu, World War I and Prohibition - and wrapped them up in a compelling tale that leaves you wanting to know more about these events. That's why I love reading historical fiction -I love when I am left wanting to learn more about a topic and that's what I am left with here. I want to read more about the Spanish Flu.

This book is a story of love and loss, and how we often find strength when we least expect to find it. This was a dark time in our history and yet Susan Meissner does a phenomenal job bringing it to light in an engaging and hopeful way. This book will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and leave you spent afterwards. I can't wait to read more books by Susan Meissner as I always find myself completely captivated by her words and the topics she decides to write about. Have you read any of her books? If so, what do you recommend I pick up next?

***This book is now out in paperback as of January 2019. The image above is from the hardcover release and the below image is the new paperback cover.


1 comment

  1. This author has been on my TBR for the last couple of books and this one looks especially tempting. We don't see the Flu Epidemic very often in fiction - or at least I haven't seen it. This one is on my TBR and now I'm really looking forward to reading it!


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