by Susan Meissner
Narrator: Cassandra Morris, Tavia Gilbert, Jorjeana Marie, Abigail Revasch
Length: 13 hours and 28 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
Narration Rating: 5
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.
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
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