Monday, November 12, 2018

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner ~ Book Review

The Bright family experienced a huge loss of son and brother when their infant Henry passed away.  Pauline struggled to get past the death of her son, so when her husband proposed moving to Philadelphia to get away from the family tobacco plantation so they could have a fresh start, Pauline agreed.  Living with Mr. Bright's uncle in his house/funeral parlor which Mr. Bright will inherit at some point, the family has a chance at a better life.  Pauline finds solace in doing the makeup of the deceased and when her middle child, 13 year old Maggie, insists on learning how to also, Pauline convinces the uncle to let her.  Though they still grieve for Henry, things may be turning around.

Then WWI hits and when Mr. Bright is called away to training, Pauline and the girls are left on their own to help at the funeral home.  Little did they know that not only would WWI start affecting all those they knew, but with it would come the Spanish flu epidemic.  No one is immune and as fear and grief start to grip the city and the bodies start to pile up, the city of Philedelphia and the Bright family will never be the same.

This a a beautifully written story about family and love, grief, and survival.  It explores decisions made in the worst of times and how mistakes and choices affect our lives.  I never really knew anything about the Spanish flu pandemic but this story really brought home the reality of what these kinds of viruses can do.  The author did a tremendous job of the historical aspect of the story.  I thought the perspective of how a funeral home of the time would handle such an influx was very interesting.  The story is written back and forth from the perspectives of Pauline Bright, the mom, and each of her 3 girls.  The Bright family was a very everyday kind of family trying to get past the passing of their baby boy when they went to Philadelphia and I thought their grief and it's effects was well done in their story.  It's also a coming of age story as the girls grow up within the story.  How each of them, with their own personalities and age, reacts to the events surrounding them really drew me.  Even though this story was set in an almost hopeless setting the author still was able to maintain a positiveness in the midst of horror and sorrow.  I loved the characters and was totally drawn into their world.

I gave it a 9.5/10


Barbara H. said...

I've enjoyed many of her historical novels. I will have to look this one up.

Faith said...

this sounds great!! I think i've read one of her books.

nikkipolani said...

I've got this one on hold (the audiobook version) -- thanks for your review! I'm not always fond of the multiple perspective stories, but this author always does such a good job with the transitions.