Title: As Bright as Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "n 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.
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."
My Two Cents:
"As Bright as Heaven" follows the story of the Bright family as they leave the countryside for Philadelphia where the father of the family plans to take over a funeral business for a family member. Even though it is hard, and sometimes sad, work, it promises to give the Bright family a more successful future. Fate has a way of intervening though. It is the late 1910s and the world is ravaged by the Spanish flu and World War I has taken many young men far away from home where they may be hurt irreparably. This is a story of a family standing together even when things are difficult.
While this is a story about a whole family, the mother and daughter relationship is especially important in this book. When Pauline's husband goes away, she becomes the full caretaker for her three daughters. They live in a brand new place and are trying to get used to a brand new business. Pauline puts everything on the line for her daughters until she can't anymore. Being a mother (and of daughters at that), I found a lot of common ground with Pauline throughout the story. It makes the turn of events even more painful!
I loved the characters in this book. We get to see the Bright daughters as they grow up. They are three very different people but all brave in different ways. At first, I didn't understand why the author chooses to show the Bright family both in 1918 and then a little bit later but as you see (and I don't want to give anything away), it was necessary in order to show the full progression of their characters, which I really liked.
This was a difficult read. This flu season has been bad so it was interesting comparing the differences between the flu in this book and the flu currently going around. It was so crazy to me how widespread the flu was then and how deadly it proved to be. I thought the author did a really good job of showing how devastating this flu was and how worried people were. There's one part of the book where the grandparents of the family refuse to let the family come back to the countryside to escape the flu because they believe the Bright family already has it. It was very sad to read how the flu tore families apart both in life and death.
Overall, this was a hard read in a lot of ways but I enjoyed how thought provoking it was and the writing was great!