Book Review: As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

by | Aug 28, 2018 | Heidi's Updates

A family is reborn through loss and love during the 1918 pandemic.

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: Susan Meissner’s stories are what inspired me to write time-slip fiction, so I have to admit I’m a little bias when it comes to anything she writes—I tend to love it all! Seriously though, this book was amazing. It falls in my top three favorite books by her (the other two being A Fall of Marigolds and The Shape of Mercy). 

As Bright As Heaven is not a light read, but it was real and challenging and full of hope. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is explored through the eyes of one family’s heartbreaking and beautiful journey. Meissner’s unique look into the role of an undertaker gave me new compassion and respect for those who work in this area. 

I loved the multiple point-of-views employed and the intricate weaving of characters and story. That being said, there was one plot thread I was a tad disappointed with and am still mulling over. It certainly made me think, and that’s what great fiction is meant to do!

This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. I highly recommend for those who love challenging historical fiction with hope-filled endings.

Favorite Quote: “We only see a little bit of our stories at a time, and the hard parts remind us too harshly that we’re fragile and flawed. But it isn’t all hard. Your story isn’t all hard parts. Some of it is incredibly beautiful.”

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