April 17, 2020
Under lockdown orders due to COVID-19, I’ve thought many times of Susan Meissner’s book As Bright As Heaven which is about the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It’s amazing that what I read two years ago about a pandemic that happened one hundred years ago is relevant today! I’ve also enjoyed The Secret Library’s Book Review Blog posts for #flashbackfriday. So even though it’s not the first Friday of the month, I’m joining Kerry @ Chat About Books to share my review of As Bright As Heaven that was first published in February of 2018. I hope I’ll be forgiven for joining the meme mid-month….I couldn’t wait until the first Friday of another month to bring your attention to this relevant read! Also….the Kindle version is $3.99 today!
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links
Genre: Historical Fiction
Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Flu spreads in America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Flu Pandemic and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars
Meet Two Sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright
Historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances. Not too different from the inspiring stories we hear today on the news involving COVID-19 heroes. We are living the historical fiction stories of the future.
In As Bright As Heaven, Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters and they become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult-sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart-wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life-changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions will promote great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.
Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.
Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is wholeheartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, for those who are looking for a value-centered and inspiring read, and for book clubs. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. Its memorable characters and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read. As Bright As Heaven and A Fall of Marigolds are my two favorite Meissner titles!
Trigger Warnings: death from flu, dire circumstances
Content Warning: the setting is a funeral home
My Rating: 4+ Stars.
As Bright As Heaven Information Here
Meet the Author, Susan Meissner
I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.
I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is to follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.
I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I have a background in community journalism.
I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner
Have you read As Bright As Heaven? Have you read another book about a pandemic? (I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.) Do you think ABAH would be too difficult to read right now in light of COVID-19 or do you think it would be interesting?
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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.
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