Title: As Bright As Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Obtained: Book of the Month January Selection/Netgalley
Synopsis: Thomas and Pauline Bright are offered the opportunity to move from the Pennsylvania country to Philadelphia so Thomas can study to become an undertaker. They uproot their entire family: daughters Evie, Maggie and Willa. The Bright family has known personal loss through the death of two-year-old son Henry, so they’re looking for a fresh start in the big city. Unfortunately, the Spanish Flue outbreak takes over Philadelphia and the rest of the world, and the Bright family is left to fight off death while constantly surrounded by it.
As Bright As Heaven has been on my radar since last November, so I was ecstatic when Book of the Month offered it as an exclusive selection to members in January. I just KNEW I had to choose it! Then, immediately the next day, I received the approval for it on Netgalley. Seriously?!
Luckily, I loved this book enough that I’m glad I have a physical copy of it. As Bright As Heaven takes place in a time period that I haven’t read too much in, so I’m glad I got to experience the outbreak of Spanish Flu in America. It seems like an interesting time period, and getting to experience all of this through the eyes of the Bright girls made it extra special for me!
Multiple Points of View
As Bright As Heaven featured four different points of view, all of them women in the Bright Family. I love multiple points of view, especially when they’re done right. In As Bright As Heaven, each chapter starts with the character’s name and the date, which really kept me from getting super confused.
First there’s Pauline, the mother of the Bright family. I really loved her character and I sincerely felt her loss throughout her POVs. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a young child and then have to uproot your whole life to move to an unknown place. Evie, Maggie and Willa had equally heartbreaking experiences with their brother’s death, but they were all different from one another.
Death and Grief
The whole Bright family was experiencing their grief of losing the baby very differently, despite being in one big house together and it being the same loss. This was amazing, and it made me think a lot about how people grieve the death of a loved one. Then the Spanish Flu comes along while they are living in Philadelphia, and everyone is losing someone since the flu ravaged through the world killing millions.
“I learned that in every culture in human history, the living have treated their dead with honor and respect, some even with adoration. There is something sacred about the body when the soul has left it, no matter which corner of the globe or how far back you look.”
By the end of the novel, I think the entire Bright family comes to terms with what happens to them and manages to pursue happiness despite their sorrows and losses. That’s what I absolutely loved about this novel. Despite what these characters experience, they come out in the end attempting to make a happy life for themselves.
This was a fantastic historical fiction novel. I loved getting the opportunity to read about the Spanish Flu and what it did to the world. As Bright As Heaven definitely lived up to all of the hype it’s been receiving, and I’m so thankful to Book of the Month that I got the chance to read it early! If you’re interested in reading a though-provoking historical fiction novel, look no further than As Bright As Heaven!
“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. We adjust to it. Somehow we figure out a way. We straighten what we can or learn how to like something a little crooked. That’s how it is. Something breaks, you fix it as best you can. There’s always a way to make something better, even if it means starting all over. That’s how we keep moving, keep breathing, keep opening our eyes every morning, even when the only thing we know for sure is that we’re still alive.”