As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

April 6th, 2018 Kimberly Review 55 Comments

6th Apr
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner
Narrator: Cassandra Morris, Tavia Gilbert, Jorjeana Marie, Abigail Revasch
Length: 13 hours and 28 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
Goodreads
Narration: 5 cups
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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.

2018 Fave Audiobook Family historical

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner was a poignant story set in 1900’s Philadelphia. Narrated by Cassandra Morris, Tavia Gilbert, Jorjeana Marie, Abigail Revasch this brilliantly crafted historical fiction shares the Bright families triumphs, heartaches and the bonds that tie them.

I love historical fiction that wrapped in historical facts and Meissner’s story is well crafted. Not only does she create endearing, complex characters but she also brings 1918 Philadelphia to life and had me Googling for information on the Spanish Flu. The characters are impacted by the following events; World War I, the Spanish Flu and Prohibition.

Our story begins as the Pauline and Thomas Bright, who are still suffering from the loss of their infant son Henry, share with their three young daughters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa that they will be traveling to Philadelphia to begin a new life with more opportunities. Thomas’s Uncle owns a successful funeral home. He will train Thomas and has made him his heir.

Their Uncle’s home gives them all and opportunities to start anew even as they mourn Henry. Soon the city soon becomes their home. They make friends with the neighbors, schoolmates and young Maggie nurses a secret crush on the twenty-one-year-old neighbor’s son.  When he is drafted, she writes diligently to him.

The story spans eight years and is told from the POVs of the female Brights as they experience love, loss, growth and more.

  • Pauline– the mother who despite her loss works hard to provide for her girls. Her loss for her son and macabre relationship with death shared her grief and feelings of guilt over the death of Henry. When the Spanish Flu outbreak began, she vowed to protect her girls.  Narrated by Tavis Gilbert
  • Evelyn– the oldest Bright daughter is smart, level-headed and sets her sites on becoming a Doctor of Psychology in a man’s world. I liked Evelyn and admired her thoughtfulness and take charge ways. Narrated by Jorjeana Marie.
  • Maggie– the middle child, is just thirteen years old when we meet her. She is inquisitive, thoughtful and loves with her whole heart. For me, Maggie was my favorite. She makes mistakes but does so with the best of intentions. Meissner indeed allowed us to understand her and I became emotionally connected. Narrated by Abigail Revasch.
  • Willa– the youngest is ten when we first meet her. She is outspoken, takes risks and has a curious nature. I found her pov to be interesting, particularly during prohibition. Narrated by Cassandra Morris.

As Bright as Heaven pulled me in from the delightful narrations to the rich history and detail the author shared. The Spanish Flu killed a fifth of the world’s population in just a few months time. Philadelphia was one of the hardest hit cities with death totals nearing 12,000. Living in a funeral home and their ties to the community brought the flu right to the Bright’s door. This deadly flu had no regard for sex, social standings or age of its victims. It killed without mercy, touched some and spared others. I wept, cringed and was riveted by the stories of the flu shared in this story.

I found the tidbits on embalming, the war, and outbreak breathtakingly detailed. The author shared these details with a smooth flow as she weaved them in and around her characters. This outbreak occurred 200 years ago this year but 2017-2018 was a hard year for the flu making the story feel very relevant.

The story worked wonderfully on audio, and each of the narrators enhanced the povs bringing the listener closer to the characters, the city and the rich historical detail the author brought to their story.

As Bright as Heaven is rich with historical details and brings the 1900’s to life,  it is still very character driven as it shares all aspects of the families lives.  As a reader/listener, we are made to feel their loss, love, hope and experience their growing pains and joys. I became very connected to each of the sisters but equally cared about other members of the household and their friends. I became caught up in secondary characters and their stories.

Whether you read or listen, fans of historical fiction, families and those curious about the Spanish Flu need to make As Bright as Heaven the next edition to their bookshelves.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner was a rich story that captured the Bright family and life in 1900's Philadelphia. #iloveaudiobooks Click To Tweet

About Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses. Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight. She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. She's a self-professed Whovian, as well as a Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat...Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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55 Responses to “As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner”

  1. Lorna

    This sounds amazing and heartbreaking. My great-uncle died while in the army with the Spanish flu. He was still a teenager. My grandmother used to tell me about him. So I am interested. Not so sure about the funeral home and embalming though? Regardless, it does sound good. I’ve not listened to one with four different narrators and I do like Tavis Gilbert. For some reason I thought her name was Tavia. Glad you enjoyed.

    • Kimberly

      You don’t get too many details, but what was shared about their home and business was fascinating.

  2. Mary @StackingMyBookShelves!

    Wow a story about the Spanish Flu and Philly. I love this setting and sounds like you really enjoyed it. I have to put this one on the top of my list of reading. I just love the sound of this one. Great review!

    • Kimberly

      Awe Mary..thanks for the love. You commented twice on this and I appreciate you making sure you hit all of my posts 🙂

  3. Melanie Simmons

    I’m not a huge fan of historicals, but I love how this one is done with the narration. I love that they got so many great narrators for each POV.

  4. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    This one has been calling to me since I first read the blurb and I’m so glad to see you enjoyed it! The characters sound amazing and this sound heartbreaking and wonderful. I definitely need to read it and it sounds like audio would be the way to go!

  5. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    I love reading historical fiction and I’ve been wanting to read this one because of both the time period that it was set in and because I just never knew the Spanish Flu was such an epidemic. It is scary to think about how deadly a strain of the flu can really be..

  6. Stephanie Jane

    I love historical fiction that really takes its reader right into the time and place of its story. This one sounds excellent 🙂

  7. Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books

    This sounds fabulous! I really enjoy learning about historical events and find this flu epidemic incredibly interesting. I love books that feature mulitple narrators so I am going to have to see if I can get my hands on this one. Great review!

  8. Ethan

    I’ve been interested in reading more historical stuff lately, so this may be a good fit!

  9. Cyn

    Ooh a 2018 fave! This sounds like a wonderful story that really sucks you in. I definitely need to check more historical fictions like this. Glad you loved this! Great review, Kim!

  10. Sophia Rose

    I was very curious about this one b/c of the era, the setting, and that it focused on the epidemic. Interesting about the historical tidbits along with the family saga. Definitely want to read it now. Thanks, Kimberly!

  11. Heidi

    I thought the audiobook version was well done, and I liked that four narrators were utilized. I am amazed that the Spanish Flu Epidemic isn’t more well known. I didn’t know about it until I read a few books about it.

  12. Lily

    I absolutely adored this one, I liked learning about the time period, I like her writing so much

    • Kimberly

      It was wonderful and the narration just added a little extra something to the whole affair 🙂

  13. Nadene

    A poignant story that captures historical events. Sounds interesting. Wonderful review, Kim

  14. Debbie Haupt

    Oh my gosh Kim this looks fantastic and wow so many narrators. While my favorite historical period is WWII, WWI is quickly becoming another favorite era. I forget just how much was going on in the world during this time like the entire planet losing 5% of the population because of the flu epidemic. Thanks for sharing your fantastic review I’m putting this on my list

  15. Vanessa

    I love family reads, plus it’s also interesting because of the historical aspect. Great review Kim 🙂

  16. Ailyn Koay

    this is interesting ~I haven’t actually read a lot of books revolving around that era when Spanish flu hit.

      • Ailyn Koay

        that’s one downside of a plague.. you would think that people would be wise enough to take precautions (like vaccinate) to avoid such a tragedy again..

  17. kindlemom1

    Yay! I’m so glad you loved this one too! It really was (for me) an eye opener about this time in our history. I knew some of it but certainly not all of it. Great review Kim and have a wonderful weekend!

  18. Jenea’s Book Obsession

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed. I had look up the Spanish Flu as well, we don’t learn much about it in school and it’s devistaion. This was such a original read so I can imagine the audio version was just amazing. Wonderful review!

  19. Cindy

    I love this time period and Historical Fiction is a great genre! Thanks for this lovely review!