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 - Traveling Sister

    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.

  • 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.

  • Susanne Strong

    5 Brilliant Stars

    Evocative and heartfelt.

    The Brights lost something immeasurable. Little Henry. And now they are left empty, searching for something they can’t quite express. Unable to fill it, they leave Quakertown for Philadelphia. Finding a new home with Uncle Fred, living in his Funeral Home, helping with the family business.

    Pauline misses her son Henry desperately. Working for Fred, doing makeup and hair for the deceased, she has found a way to cope. Her middle daughter Maggie helps with

    5 Brilliant Stars

    Evocative and heartfelt.

    The Brights lost something immeasurable. Little Henry. And now they are left empty, searching for something they can’t quite express. Unable to fill it, they leave Quakertown for Philadelphia. Finding a new home with Uncle Fred, living in his Funeral Home, helping with the family business.

    Pauline misses her son Henry desperately. Working for Fred, doing makeup and hair for the deceased, she has found a way to cope. Her middle daughter Maggie helps with the bodies as well, wanting to make things perfect for them. She is strong willed and has the best of intentions. Evi, the eldest is training to be a psychologist and desperately wants to help those in need. Willa is the youngest. Above all else, she needs her family.

    It is the time of the Great War. When the Spanish Flu hits, it wipes out thousands of people in the Philadelphia area and Uncle Fred, Pauline and Maggie are inundated. Making rounds with her mother, helping those in need, Maggie finds a little baby boy who she fears will die if she leaves him alone. In a moment of panic, she picks him up and takes him as he reminds her of Henry - and so it begins. Everyone has a choice to make and Maggie makes hers.

    Life takes its toll on the Brights. Their story is not a fairytale and resilience is their middle name. “As Bright As Heaven” resonates, its characters echoing in your heart and soul. It is told from four POV’s: Pauline’s, Evi’s, Maggie’s and Willa’s. Each is very separate and distinct - which is a true feat for Susan Meissner. My favorite POV was Maggie’s. I loved how independent and fierce she was, even at a young age. Her bravery surprised me constantly.

    “As Bright As Heaven” is a novel about hardship, family and dealing with choices we make. It is a novel full of heart and it captured mine.

    I read this novel with several of my traveling sisters. We had a great discussion about this book. Thanks Sisters!

    Published on Goodreads and Twitter on 4.29.18.

  • Norma * Traveling Sister

    Brenda and I were lost in a coulee with four of our Traveling Sisters reading As Bright as Heaven and we were all drawn into this eye-opening, emotional, and heartbreaking read. It led to a very interesting discussion where we shared our thoughts on the things that we learned from this read and also our thoughts on grief.

    AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN by SUSAN MEISSNER is a story about love, loss and family. It was such a fantastic, enjoyable and beautifully written historical fiction novel that we thorou

    Brenda and I were lost in a coulee with four of our Traveling Sisters reading As Bright as Heaven and we were all drawn into this eye-opening, emotional, and heartbreaking read. It led to a very interesting discussion where we shared our thoughts on the things that we learned from this read and also our thoughts on grief.

    AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN by SUSAN MEISSNER is a story about love, loss and family. It was such a fantastic, enjoyable and beautifully written historical fiction novel that we thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.

    This is the first book that most of us have read that centered around the Spanish Flu and it was definitely an eye-opening experience for us as we knew little about the Spanish Flu. We really appreciated what we learned here with some of the devastating effects that the pandemic of 1918 had on the world. Susan Meissner does a good job balancing history and with focusing on the impact it had on the Bright family.

    SUSAN MEISSNER does such a fantastic job creating an interesting and unique setting here with this story that really added some layers to the storyline for us. A few of us had different reactions to the setting that brought out different emotions for us. It gave us a different and interesting perspective to the tragic events of such a devastating pandemic.

    Susan Meissner delivers a well-written and compelling read here with interesting, honest and believable characters that touched all of our hearts. We absolutely fell in love with the Bright family and thoroughly enjoyed reading this story through the four different perspectives of the Bright women/girls of the family. Each given a strong voice that set them apart with their age and personalities, allowing us to feel for each one.

    The cover of this book is so beautiful and the title is extremely fitting to this story!

    This was definitely an interesting, entertaining, enjoyable and unforgettable story that I am so happy to have discussed and read with my fellow Traveling Sisters. Would recommend!

    Review written and posted on our themed book blog:

    Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading

    Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.

  • 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!

  • Elyse

    Audiobook....read by Cassandra Morris, Tavia Gilbert, Jorjeana Marie, and Abigail Revasch

    The first thing I noticed from the Audiobook is that the reader/readers SPEAKING VOICES WERE GOOD- they had the potential to hold my attention, but I honestly thought some of the writing felt like a package of store bought cookies. The tempo didn’t have many ranges - The cookies - characters - were lined up in a row in their container- waiting their turn to be eaten ( to speak and share their point of view).

    Audiobook....read by Cassandra Morris, Tavia Gilbert, Jorjeana Marie, and Abigail Revasch

    The first thing I noticed from the Audiobook is that the reader/readers SPEAKING VOICES WERE GOOD- they had the potential to hold my attention, but I honestly thought some of the writing felt like a package of store bought cookies. The tempo didn’t have many ranges - The cookies - characters - were lined up in a row in their container- waiting their turn to be eaten ( to speak and share their point of view).

    I admit I’ve developed a little negative pet peeve when a child dies at the start of a novel. We never get to know the dead child ....so ‘everything’ that follows - grief - stories of the child’s characteristics - etc. are all through other characters whom we haven’t gotten to know yet.

    So....I had to jump a little hurdle over Henry...the little baby who died.

    Death is where this story begins...in the year 1918 for the Bright Family. ....

    Death is a running theme from start to finish...

    Love is always a running theme.

    We are invited into the personal intimate story of this family: Tom and Pauline and their three daughters, Evie, Maggie, and Willa, live in funeral parlor when the Spanish Flu breaks out.

    Many of the side plots felt stronger than the flu itself.

    Overall .....this book kept me interested enough to know what was coming next ....but if I think about it too much my rating will go down.

    I liked it...but something about mixing kids- kissing - embalming - grief -love loss- the Spanish Flu - lots of death and - and tinker bell happy ever after endings all together .....disrupts my chatterbox voice from a peaceful sleep.

    3.5 — I’ll even rate up ....mark 4 stars.....but don’t let my chatterbox voice rate it....it’s a little more judgmental than my surface breezy listening. As an Audiobook ‘companion’, I liked it. I just needed to stay out of my head- and not think too much.

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