As Bright as Heaven

As Bright as Heaven

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 fres...

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Title:As Bright as Heaven
Author:Susan Meissner
Rating:
Edition Language:English

As Bright as Heaven Reviews

  • Melisa

    Susan Meissner’s writing is like a warm hug or a slow dance or a good wine. It just flows seamlessly and gets you into your soul.

    Personally, I have a tendency to romanticize the past - historical fiction holds such a dear place in my heart, I love that I can be entertained by fiction while being educated about a period of time. But definitely, not all of it is romantic. And in As Bright As Heaven, Susan Meissner has given a voice to so many who experienced a horrible plague, one that has seemin

    Susan Meissner’s writing is like a warm hug or a slow dance or a good wine. It just flows seamlessly and gets you into your soul.

    Personally, I have a tendency to romanticize the past - historical fiction holds such a dear place in my heart, I love that I can be entertained by fiction while being educated about a period of time. But definitely, not all of it is romantic. And in As Bright As Heaven, Susan Meissner has given a voice to so many who experienced a horrible plague, one that has seemingly been lost to history. To quote from her Acknowledgments:

    Told from several perspectives, Meissner was able to give a voice to four different girls and women in different stages of life effectively and convincingly. And death. Death is almost a character in this story, present at all turns and ironically taking on a life of its own.

    There is love and there is loss and there is the story of a family that will stick with you for a very long time. And maybe some tears. Highly recommend.

    Thank you to Susan Meissner, Berkley and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Dorie

    I had previously read “A Bridge Across The Ocean” by Ms. Meissner and I was anxious to read this new novel. Wow, it is one of the best books that I have read this year!!! The prose is beautiful and flowing and amongst all of the heartache and physical and emotional difficulties the human spirit shines brightly!

    The setting is Philadelphia around 1917 and on. The Bright family, husband Thomas, wife Pauline and their three daughters have just moved to Philadelphia from a poor tobacco town to join T

    I had previously read “A Bridge Across The Ocean” by Ms. Meissner and I was anxious to read this new novel. Wow, it is one of the best books that I have read this year!!! The prose is beautiful and flowing and amongst all of the heartache and physical and emotional difficulties the human spirit shines brightly!

    The setting is Philadelphia around 1917 and on. The Bright family, husband Thomas, wife Pauline and their three daughters have just moved to Philadelphia from a poor tobacco town to join Tom’s uncle’s funeral business. The Bright’s have recently lost their young infant son and have decided that a move would be a positive thing for them, a new environment, better education for their girls, a solid well paying job for Tom with the knowledge that he will someday inherit the funeral business from his childless uncle.

    The novel is so multi-layered that it’s difficult to do it justice in a review. It is told from multiple perspectives of family members. The war begins to really rage in Europe and soon even Tom, in his 40’s, is called to serve. Not long after their father leaves the Spanish flu begins to spread it’s ugly tentacles across the US, having started in Europe. Many soldiers have died while in service and they also return to the US forts and hospitals and the flu spreads like a wildfire. I didn’t know much about this terrible time but Ms. Meissner has done extensive research and there is a wealth of knowledge here. She helps us see the extent of the human suffering, the victims falling to the disease so quickly, the undertakers and gravediggers can’t work fast enough or provide enough caskets for the dead. In the end it’s told that around 10,000 people in Philadelphia alone died from the flu.

    It’s at this time that Pauline and her daughter Maggie volunteer to take food to the sick and Maggie hears the cry of a baby, enters his home and finds his dead mother and what she believes to be his dying sister. She bundles the filthy, untended baby in her coat and returns to her mother. They take in the child and raise it as their own having provided all of the information that they know to the police and other authorities.

    The family experiences the horror of the flu as they "lose loved ones". Through the years, as their father returns from the war to care for the children and eventually run the funeral home they experience happiness again.

    There are so many interesting stories of the girls, their interests, loves and losses that are all well developed and I felt as though I knew each of the girls. This book made me realize that the flu in the end claimed almost one third of the population in the world, more than all of the soldiers that died in the World Wars. It’s hard to even imagine a devastating disease such as this ever happening again, but there is always that chance that science may not be able to keep up with the ever changing viruses.

    I would recommend this book to everyone, there is so much to like about this book. The interesting plot with well researched facts, the well rounded characters believable and incredible and the writing flows like a river. Buy this book, read it and pass it on, it’s that good.

    I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley, thank you.

  • Andrea

    5 GLORIOUS stars (and 5 random thoughts):

    1. My first ARC! Thank you to the publisher for providing my with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

    2. Apparently, 100 years ago, fifty-million people worldwide perished from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the deadliest disease in history and I had NO idea. As the backdrop for this novel, I was enthralled.

    3. The story follows the alternating perspectives of a wife and her 3 resilient daughters as they make a new life in Philadelphia. The

    5 GLORIOUS stars (and 5 random thoughts):

    1. My first ARC! Thank you to the publisher for providing my with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

    2. Apparently, 100 years ago, fifty-million people worldwide perished from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the deadliest disease in history and I had NO idea. As the backdrop for this novel, I was enthralled.

    3. The story follows the alternating perspectives of a wife and her 3 resilient daughters as they make a new life in Philadelphia. Their voices are spot-on authentic. Never once did I want to take my nose out of this book.

    4. Be warned....It is a complete sob-fest, but so worthwhile! Books like this are why I read.

    5. “She surely will come to understand when she is older, as we all do. Sooner or later she will learn that time changes everything, takes everything; sometimes in a blink and sometimes so slowly you can’t even see it happening.”

  • Lori

    Perfection! I absolutely adored this novel. I have never read anything about the Spanish Flu and was astounded at the number of people & families it affected. Meissners writing is flawless. She draws you in with her remarkable characters and storytelling. This is a novel not to be missed! 5+ stars.

  • Marialyce

    5 oh my gosh I loved this story stars

    Sometimes a story just comes together and as you unwrap its layers, you find yourself more and more in love with what was written. This was the case with this reader. Susan Meissner told this story with love and a devotion to show us what the ravages of a world war and a deadly disease, that of the Spanish influenza did to families. The loss of life from both of these tragedies was staggering and no one came away unblemished in some part. Following the Bright

    5 oh my gosh I loved this story stars

    Sometimes a story just comes together and as you unwrap its layers, you find yourself more and more in love with what was written. This was the case with this reader. Susan Meissner told this story with love and a devotion to show us what the ravages of a world war and a deadly disease, that of the Spanish influenza did to families. The loss of life from both of these tragedies was staggering and no one came away unblemished in some part. Following the Bright family, their lives, their loves, their sadness, and their joy was like taking a walk through history. We learned of the tragedy a disease can bring and the devastation that is felt in people after a war is fought.

    This flu as the author points out in her notes randomly killed all people, those who were poor alongside those who were rich. As she continued her story, set in Philadelphia where there were over twelve thousand deaths, she involves us not only into the tragedies but also in the life of her characters. The characters become reality and across the pages they reach out to us and entangle us in their lives.

    If you enjoy the story of family, the story of life and death, and walking the road between the two, then this book comes highly recommended by this reader. The characters are wonderful as they show love and loss and the ability to go forward when all seems to be futile. It and they were a testament to what we do as humans when life becomes onerous. We move forward looking towards the future for better times, better minutes and hours, and better days.

  • Diane S ☔

    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

    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.

    ARC from bookbrowse and publisher.

  • Angela M

    1918, a family after a tragic loss, moves from Quakertown to Philadelphia when the childless uncle invites the father of this family to work with him as an undertaker and become heir to his business and home. Philadelphia is a place where Thomas Bright thought he could give a better life to his wife and three daughters. They move into the funeral home so how could this book not be about death, given the business ? But death appears in ways that could not be anticipated with the outbreak of the S

    1918, a family after a tragic loss, moves from Quakertown to Philadelphia when the childless uncle invites the father of this family to work with him as an undertaker and become heir to his business and home. Philadelphia is a place where Thomas Bright thought he could give a better life to his wife and three daughters. They move into the funeral home so how could this book not be about death, given the business ? But death appears in ways that could not be anticipated with the outbreak of the Spanish flu and in ways that they could not imagine would touch their lives. It wasn’t until I read the author’s note after I read the book that I learned that Philadelphia was one of the hardest hit places.

    The novel begins in a beautifully introspective way with Pauline Bright’s narrative which tells of their loss and how she copes with the grief. It continues in alternating chapters from the perspective of her three daughters. Maggie who is 12 at the time is feisty and good hearted and so observant, not just about her surroundings but about her family as well. Willa is 6 and not much more to say about her at least in the beginning but she grows and changes. Evelyn at 15 is smart, inquisitive, and as observant as her sister and a prolific reader.

    Susan Meissner has written a fascinating work of historical fiction reflecting on the terrible impact of the flu epidemic, the death and misery it caused, as well as depicting how families were impacted when their loved ones went off to fight in WWI. It became more than a book about grief and death, but about how people can dig deep with themselves to move forward, about how an orphan baby brought hope and joy to this family when it seemed impossible. The character development is just so good and I was drawn to each of these characters. The ending, though, was just a little too neat. After reading the author’s note , it’s obvious how well researched this novel is. It’s a good story with characters to remember set in the middle of a tough time in history and I recommend it !

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Berkley Books through NetGalley.

  • Jen

    The Great War. The Spanish flu. A year that took more than just soldiers in 1918.

    This one took me by the heart and squeezed it until I lost my breath and then slowly released it.

    Such heartache in a family who have experienced the pain of losing a baby. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia in the process of healing and starting a new life by taking over an uncle's funeral business. Death hovers over them on a daily basis until the Spanish flu steps in and takes from them and thousands of othe

    The Great War. The Spanish flu. A year that took more than just soldiers in 1918.

    This one took me by the heart and squeezed it until I lost my breath and then slowly released it.

    Such heartache in a family who have experienced the pain of losing a baby. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia in the process of healing and starting a new life by taking over an uncle's funeral business. Death hovers over them on a daily basis until the Spanish flu steps in and takes from them and thousands of others, more loved ones. The war rages overseas and just as the family experiences more sadness, the brightness of an orphan boy is a healing balm to their ravaged hearts.

    As the Bright family recovers and mends, their happiness is again threatened.

    Perspectives are told from the mother, Pauline, and her 3 daughters, Evie, Maggie and Willa. Meissner does a remarkable job recounting history during a dark period and giving it light.

    The characters and their lives have seeped under my skin. This is one of those feel good reads 4+ ⭐️

  • Karen

    I just loved this family, the Bright’s. This book begins in 1918 during the Great War and the Spanish flu epidemic, when this family of five, the parents and three daughter’s moves from Quakertown to Philadelphia. The father’s uncle gives him the job of undertaker to his funeral home and heir to his estate.

    The chapters are told in alternating chapters by the woman and girls of the family.

    From life in the funeral home, the neighbors, the Great War, the flu, prohibition... so much touched on in th

    I just loved this family, the Bright’s. This book begins in 1918 during the Great War and the Spanish flu epidemic, when this family of five, the parents and three daughter’s moves from Quakertown to Philadelphia. The father’s uncle gives him the job of undertaker to his funeral home and heir to his estate.

    The chapters are told in alternating chapters by the woman and girls of the family.

    From life in the funeral home, the neighbors, the Great War, the flu, prohibition... so much touched on in this book.

    This will pull at your heartstrings many times. I so enjoyed it!

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