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As Bright as Heaven

As Bright as Heaven Book Cover As Bright as Heaven
Susan Meissner
Historical fiction
February 6, 2018
Advanced readers copy
Publisher via Bookish First

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.

My review:

Ahh Susan Meissner, you've done it again! One of my automatic buy authors returns with a fabulous historical fiction novel set amidst the Spanish flu pandemic of 2018-2019. We follow the Bright family as they navigate their new city of Philadelphia, where the patriarch has taken a job with his uncle, owner of a funeral parlor. This was back in the beginning of the shift from caring for the deceased at home vs. having them embalmed and viewed at a funeral home. Fascinating as this topic was unto itself, there is also the widespread panic and loss of lives from the flu, where no one is spared no matter what socioeconomic class you were from. I loved the Bright family, and along with getting to know them, we are treated to topics such as first love, men being called up to serve in the war, fostering an orphan child, speakeasys, mental health asylums, and the ever present tragedies of death. Ms. Meissner writes in her usual masterful style, and her characters and places leap off the page. Despite a small hitch with a too coincidental part of the plot, there was nothing else I would want from this book.

A definite read, especially for those looking for some historical perspective to the greatest pandemic (greater than the Bubonic plague for loss of life), which occurred a century ago. Another wonderfully written story of a family you will want to get to know.

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