As Bright as Heaven
Goodreads ratings
4.07 / 5

"As Bright as Heaven" Characters Analysis

By Susan Meissner

historical fiction | 387 pages | Published in 2018

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.


Estimated read time: 7 min read

Table of Contents

  1. List of Characters

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Pauline BrightProtagonist
Thomas "Tom" BrightProtagonist
Evie BrightProtagonist
Maggie BrightProtagonist
HenrySupporting Character
Dr. PritchardSupporting Character
Mrs. WorthingtonSupporting Character
Will KellerSupporting Character
Fiona O'NeillSupporting Character
EmmettSupporting Character
BerthaSupporting Character

Role Identification

In the historical fiction novel "As Bright as Heaven" by Susan Meissner, several key characters shape the narrative and provide insight into the events surrounding the Bright family during the Spanish Flu pandemic in Philadelphia. The analysis focuses on the four main protagonists, Pauline, Thomas, Evie, and Maggie Bright, as well as a selection of supporting characters who impact their lives.

Character Descriptions

  1. Pauline Bright: The matriarch of the Bright family, Pauline is a compassionate and resilient woman. She possesses a strong sense of family duty and strives to keep her loved ones safe during the devastating flu outbreak. Pauline is a skilled pianist and becomes a source of comfort to others through her music.
  2. Thomas "Tom" Bright: The father and husband, Tom is a caring and hardworking man. He is committed to his family's well-being and tries to shield them from the harsh realities of the pandemic. Tom is a skilled mortician, an occupation that becomes particularly challenging during the flu outbreak.
  3. Evie Bright: The eldest daughter, Evie is a curious and intelligent teenager. She dreams of becoming a doctor and develops a deep interest in medicine during the pandemic. Evie's resilience and determination drive her to pursue her aspirations despite the difficult circumstances.
  4. Maggie Bright: The youngest daughter, Maggie is a sweet and perceptive child. She forms a strong bond with her older sister Evie and seeks solace in her imagination. Maggie's innocence and ability to find joy in the midst of tragedy provide a ray of hope throughout the story.
  5. Henry: A close family friend, Henry is a compassionate and supportive character. He offers guidance and friendship to the Bright family during their most challenging moments. Henry's presence brings comfort and stability to the family during the chaotic times.
  6. Dr. Pritchard: The family's doctor, Dr. Pritchard plays a crucial role in the story. He provides medical expertise and guidance to the Brights as they navigate the flu epidemic. Dr. Pritchard's commitment to helping others and his dedication to finding a cure make him an essential character.

Character Traits

  1. Pauline Bright: Compassionate, resilient, musically talented, family-oriented.
  2. Thomas "Tom" Bright: Caring, hardworking, protective, skilled mortician.
  3. Evie Bright: Curious, intelligent, determined, aspiring doctor.
  4. Maggie Bright: Sweet, perceptive, imaginative, brings joy.
  5. Henry: Compassionate, supportive, stable, trusted friend.
  6. Dr. Pritchard: Knowledgeable, dedicated, committed to finding a cure.

Character Background

  1. Pauline Bright: Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pauline comes from a musical background. She married Tom and together they run a funeral home. Pauline's love for her family and her passion for music drive her actions throughout the story.
  2. Thomas "Tom" Bright: Tom grew up in a small town and became a mortician. He is a dedicated husband and father, always striving to provide for his family. Tom's expertise in his profession becomes essential during the flu outbreak.
  3. Evie Bright: Evie is a bright young woman with a thirst for knowledge. She dreams of becoming a doctor and attending medical school. The flu pandemic becomes a turning point in Evie's life as she witnesses the devastation and becomes determined to help others.
  4. Maggie Bright: The youngest of the Bright family, Maggie is a curious and imaginative child. She finds solace in her imaginary world amidst the chaos of the pandemic. Maggie's innocence and resilience shine through, providing a sense of hope.
  5. Henry: A longtime family friend, Henry has known the Brights for years. He provides emotional support and stability during the challenging times. Henry's own experiences shape his empathy and understanding of the family's struggles.
  6. Dr. Pritchard: As the family's doctor, Dr. Pritchard is dedicated to his profession and the well-being of his patients. He becomes a trusted advisor to the Bright family during the flu outbreak, working tirelessly to find a cure and save lives.

Character Arcs

  1. Pauline Bright: Throughout the story, Pauline's character arc revolves around her transformation from a grieving mother to a source of strength for her family and the community. Her resilience and musical talents provide solace to others, and she learns to find hope amidst tragedy.
  2. Thomas "Tom" Bright: Tom's character arc centers on his struggle to balance his responsibilities as a father, husband, and mortician during the pandemic. He evolves from a protective figure to someone who must confront the harsh realities of death. Tom's experiences teach him the value of cherishing every moment.
  3. Evie Bright: Evie's character arc focuses on her determination to become a doctor and help others. The flu outbreak solidifies her resolve, and she becomes actively involved in volunteering and assisting Dr. Pritchard. Evie's journey highlights her growth, resilience, and commitment to making a difference.
  4. Maggie Bright: Although young, Maggie's character arc reveals her ability to find joy and hope even in the darkest times. Her imagination and innocence provide a sense of lightness amidst the tragedy. Maggie's arc emphasizes the importance of resilience and the power of imagination.


  1. Pauline and Thomas: Pauline and Thomas share a loving and supportive relationship. They rely on each other during the pandemic, showcasing their unwavering commitment to their family's well-being.
  2. Evie and Maggie: The bond between Evie and Maggie is strong. Evie takes care of her younger sister and encourages her imaginative spirit. Their relationship provides solace and support during the difficult times.
  3. Henry and the Brights: Henry's friendship with the Bright family is a source of stability and comfort. He becomes an important figure, offering guidance and emotional support to each family member.
  4. Dr. Pritchard and the Brights: Dr. Pritchard plays a crucial role in the Brights' lives as their trusted doctor. His expertise and dedication to finding a cure forge a deep connection with the family.
  5. Mrs. Worthington and the Brights: Mrs. Worthington, a grieving mother who lost her daughter to the flu, forms an unexpected bond with Pauline. Their shared experiences of loss and grief connect them on a profound level.
  6. Will Keller and the Brights: Will Keller, a young man who lost his family to the flu, becomes a part of the Brights' lives. He forms a connection with Evie, and together they find solace and support in their shared experiences.

In "As Bright as Heaven," Susan Meissner crafts rich and multidimensional characters whose journeys during the Spanish Flu pandemic reveal their resilience, strength, and capacity for hope. The interconnectedness of their relationships further enhances the narrative, highlighting the importance of love and support during times of hardship. Through their various character arcs, the protagonists and supporting characters navigate the challenges of the pandemic, ultimately leaving a lasting impact on both the readers and the story itself.