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review 2018-04-04 16:50
As Bright As Heaven
As Bright as Heaven - Susan Meissner
I laughed and I cried through this novel, the Bright family though, had to endure it all while I sat back and just watched, my emotions getting the best of me. The year was 1918 and this family was embarking on change. Having moved from Quakertown, they were now moving to the city, the city of Philadelphia where father would be one day taking over a family business. No more rolling tobacco and cigars, the family was going into the mortuary business.
 
Mother wanted to be a part of this venture and originally, Uncle Fred confined her to the attached house. Mother and the children had no business being in the funeral home unless it was to help set up for services. Mother questioned why they were paying staff when she herself, could do their job and eventually Uncle Fred compromised. Mother was such a determined and caring individual.
 
The war takes it toll on the city, first as it recruits and then as fatalities takes its citizens. It never ends as the Spanish Flu begins its tour and no one is immune from day one. Hitting the military and then the states, everyone is scared yet for the Bright Funeral Home, this is business. A business that has to start turning individuals away as they cannot keep up with the bodies that require their care. The family fears for their own safety yet where can they go to be “safe.” I hadn’t thought much about what life would be like living inside or working inside a funeral home until reading this novel. It all seems so peaceful but this is the result of many hours of demanding and hard work. The physical work is only a fraction of it. The emotional aspect of the job is what would separate many individuals from this line of work.
 
An orphaned baby brings hope to the family yet inside, I felt there was something wrong about this whole situation. This child provided sunshine finally to the family yet soon darkness fell over the household. My tears fell freely and rapidly as I read as life changed within the funeral home. Everyone has been affected by the war and/or by the Spanish Flu, it amazed me how much devastation has occurred. Business is starting to slow down finally and the new normal is beginning to show its face. I was not ready to let go of this family and their lives in Philadelphia as the novel started to wind down. Their story was one that I really enjoyed.
 
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a copy of this novel to review in exchange for an honest review.

 

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review 2018-02-20 21:05
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
As Bright as Heaven - Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven is a novel that feels like a friend by the time one finishes it. The storytellers, a mother and her three daughters, each add their own perspective and emotion to the events of 1918: World War I and the Spanish flu on a global level, love and loss on a personal level. I was captivated from the beginning and sad when it ended.

The method of telling each chapter from the perspective of one of the women/girls of the Bright family reminded me of The Poisonwood Bible. Both books include families moved from all that is familiar with faith and expectations packed in their luggage. This book is not as academically written and does not make such an obvious political statement, but it also feels more real. The faith of the Bright family is ever-present but not overbearing. They struggle, make mistakes, love, forgive, and lose precious loved ones in the flu epidemic that stole more from the world than the war did.

If some of the plot twist in this novel was predictable, I think the author can be forgiven. The development of the Bright girls' characters as they grew up and the emotions elicited throughout the novel more than make up for the lack of mystery. The spotlight on the impact of the flu in Philadelphia and the setting of an undertaker business are brilliant choices that make this an original and inspirational story.

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

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text 2018-02-05 22:28
Well researched historical fiction
As Bright as Heaven - Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner is a poignant story about a young family who moves from a small town in Pennsylvania to Philadelphia to begin a new, and hopefully better, life after the death of their youngest child. The story is told from four points of view, Pauline Bright and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa.

When Thomas Bright’s Uncle, a permanent bachelor, asks him to move to Philadelphia to learn and take over his funeral pallor business, Tom sees it as a chance to lift his family out of poverty. With much hope, the family relocates and starts their new life. As everyone settles in to their new home in Philadelphia, the Great War in Europe is raging and the United States enters the conflict and Tom is called to serve his country. Not long after, the Spanish Flu makes it way to North America and to the city the Bright’s now call home.

Pauline begs her parents to let them return to Quakertown until the flu has passed. They refuse her, because they fear she will bring the flu with her and give it to her sister’s new born. Forced to stay, Pauline watches as the number of dead from the flu arrive at the funeral parlor in staggering numbers. She is careful to keep her mouth covered and those of the children. Yet as careful as she is, tragedy strikes the Bright family and Willa, the youngest, is the first to fall ill. Then just as she turns the corner toward recover, Pauline becomes ill too. Pauline fought hard against the flu in little Willa and she has no reserves left to fight her own battle with this enemy. In the end she succumbs and not long after their Uncle dies too.

Amidst all the tragedy, Tom and the girls open their home and their hearts to an orphaned boy.  How can they not, when the city is now full of children that have lost their parents to the flu epidemic? Little do they realize that this one selfless decision will give them the hope and courage they will need to face the future.  

As Bright as Heaven is an elegantly written, well researched, historical fiction. Ms. Meissner, knows how to write a story that pulls at your heart strings. The characters are portrayed with a realism and authenticity that is hard to find.  The story flowed so nicely and the end came much too quickly. So quickly in fact, that it felt a little rushed. That aside, it is well worth reading. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and women’s fiction.

For more of my reviews, and author interviews, see my book blog at www.thespineview.com.  

Source: www.thespineview.com/genre/as-bright-as-heaven-by-susan-meissner
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review 2018-01-18 06:12
As Bright as Heaven - Susan Meissner

I have to admit, at first, I didn't really feel anything for this family at the beginning. I even considered packing it away. However, the more I read, the more I felt. This family went through a whole bunch of hardships most families face, but they also had the Great War and the Influenza Flu epidemic. The latter really hitting the family and those around them really bad.

I really was moved by this book and thoroughly enjoyed my journey with this family. 

By the end of the book, I was actually sorry to see them go. Ending it on a somewhat more happy note really made the tears flow.

An incredible story of a family who loved, lost and lived.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing Group and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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review 2017-12-12 00:00
Secrets of a Charmed Life
Secrets of a Charmed Life - Susan Meissner One of my favorite historical fictions books. You really get a feel for what the Blitz in London was truly like. I could not put this book down and highly recommend it to historical fiction readers.
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