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Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner


As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
ARC, e-Book, 387 pages
Berkley Books
February 6, 2018
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received the book via Netgalley request

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.

What an interesting read! There are so many angles to this story, areas that are not frequently explored in fiction, that this story felt fresh and new throughout. There aren’t many novels that deal with the Spanish Flu, even when they are telling the stories of WWI, but Susan Meissner handled the effects of the Flu on Philadelphia masterfully and wove it into several critical story plot twists that have lasting implications for the Bright family. The full effects of the Flu are explored from the symptoms, how it seemed to come about, how many people were dying, and how it really contributed to the rise of the funeral home business. It’s always interesting to me to see how major events affect areas that you wouldn’t even consider, like funeral homes. And speaking of the funeral homes, we get an inside look in how they would have operated and what was needed to be done to preserve bodies.

The only part of the novel that was a bit of a struggle for me was the beginning; it felt very slow and I put it down/picked it up several times. I think part of the issue for me was the multiple narrators and I couldn’t connect with anyone right away. Once the story got rolling and they were in Philadelphia and each was their own distinct person, it was much easier to enjoy and I raced through those pages. I understand the importance of those early scenes, but they didn’t do anything for me in terms of getting me into the story. Each of the Bright women and girls have their own unique set of struggles with the move to Philadelphia and the effect of the Flu and the subsequent directions their lives take and I enjoyed exploring their storylines. The twists and turns of this story I did not see coming and feel that they paid out well for the reader.

I would definitely read more works by this author as I loved the depth that the author was able to bring to both the characters and the events of the time explored.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Susan Meissner:

secrets of a charmed life
Secrets of a Charmed Life

a fall of marigolds
A Fall of Marigolds

the shape of mercy
The Shape of Mercy

a bridge across the oceas
A Bridge Across the Ocean

stars over sunset boulevard
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

the girl in the glass
The Girl in the Glass

lady in waiting
Lady in Waiting

a sound among the trees
A Sound Among the Trees

Find Susan Meissner:
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2018 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Slow beginnings are terrible. Glad you stuck through.

  2. I have this one on my list, as well as 2 others by this author. I've only read A Bridge Across the Ocean, but enjoyed it. I'm hoping to like the others just as much!


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