★ ★ ★ ★
What a breathtaking introduction to Susan Meissner’s novels. A thoughtful, heartwrenching story set in 1918, Philadelphia during the Great War, as the Spanish Flu makes its way to the shores of America. It’s told from the perspective of the Bright women; Pauline and her three daughters, Evie, Maggie, and Willa, as they make their way to a new city for a better life. What comes is the tragedy of war and loss, the journey of coming-of-age and grief, and a miracle baby that brings hope to a distraught family during one of the darkest times in history.
It usually takes me a couple days to get through a book, but I read this in one night. In fact, I stayed awake until 6am to finish it because I could not put it down and would not rest until I read the last page. Then I laid in bed for half an hour thinking about the story and how I was going to put my thoughts into perspective for this review. While it was a slow burn for me, it was captivating and picked up about 2/3 the way through. Even when it came to the characters I did not particularly like, I felt for them in those difficult times because Meissner’s writing reaches you as a reader and you can’t help but want peace for all of them.
There is so much heartache and sorrow in this novel, but there is also perseverance, hope, and growth. Even when it came to an end, I wanted to know what came next for the Bright family. Whether you are new to historical fiction or looking for a story that pulls at your heart-strings but comes together in the end, Bright as Heaven is one to pick up.
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.
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Berkley Books