As Bright as Heaven
Goodreads ratings
4.07 / 5

"As Bright as Heaven" Summary

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.

ISBN_13:9780399585968

Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A family navigates love, loss, and the Spanish flu epidemic in Philadelphia during World War I.

Introduction

In the historical fiction novel "As Bright as Heaven" written by Susan Meissner, readers are taken on a captivating journey through the lives of the Bright family during the devastating Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. This poignant and heartfelt story explores themes of resilience, family bonds, and the power of hope in the face of tragedy. Meissner's vivid storytelling and well-developed characters make this novel a compelling and emotional read.

Brief Synopsis

Set in Philadelphia, the novel follows the lives of Pauline Bright and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa, as they navigate the challenges of the Spanish flu pandemic. Pauline and her husband, Thomas, move their family to Philadelphia in 1918 to begin a new chapter, as Thomas has accepted a job as an undertaker at his uncle's funeral home.

As the flu pandemic spreads rapidly, the Bright family finds themselves at the center of the crisis. Their funeral home becomes a place of both grief and hope, as they witness the devastating loss of life while also providing comfort and solace to grieving families. Each family member copes with the pandemic in their own way, facing personal struggles and finding strength within themselves and each other.

Main Characters

CharacterDescription
PaulineThe matriarch of the Bright family, she is a caring and resilient woman who holds her family together during the pandemic.
ThomasPauline's husband and an undertaker at the Bright family funeral home. He faces the challenges of his profession while also supporting his family.
EvelynThe eldest daughter, she dreams of becoming a nurse and finds herself drawn to the medical field during the pandemic.
MaggieThe middle daughter, she is a young girl who develops a love for photography and uses it as a means to cope with the difficult times.
WillaThe youngest daughter, she is a curious and observant child who navigates the pandemic with innocence and resilience.

Summary of Different Story Points over Chapters

Chapter 1: A New Beginning

The Bright family moves to Philadelphia, and Thomas starts working at the funeral home. The family settles into their new home and begins to explore their surroundings.

Chapter 2: The Outbreak

The Spanish flu pandemic hits Philadelphia, and the Bright family witnesses the rapid spread of the disease. They experience both personal losses and confront the realities of death on a daily basis.

Chapter 3: Grief and Resilience

Pauline, Thomas, and their daughters each cope with grief in their own ways. Evelyn becomes a nurse and witnesses the devastating effects of the flu firsthand. Maggie finds solace in photography, capturing both the beauty and tragedy of life. Willa finds comfort in her imaginary world.

Chapter 4: Unexpected Connections

The Bright family forms unexpected connections with the people they encounter during the pandemic. They bond with a young orphan, named Hildy, who becomes like a sister to the three girls. They also develop a close relationship with a soldier named Peter, who brings hope and light into their lives.

Chapter 5: The Power of Hope

As the pandemic rages on, the Bright family holds onto hope and finds strength in their love for each other. They witness acts of kindness and compassion amidst the suffering, reminding them of the resilience of the human spirit.

Main Events

  1. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia and begins working at the funeral home.
  2. The Spanish flu pandemic hits Philadelphia, spreading rapidly and causing widespread devastation.
  3. Evelyn becomes a nurse and witnesses the toll the pandemic takes on the city.
  4. Maggie discovers a passion for photography and uses it as an outlet for her emotions.
  5. Willa finds solace in her imaginary world, creating a sense of hope and resilience.
  6. The Bright family forms unexpected connections with Hildy, an orphan, and Peter, a soldier.
  7. The family witnesses acts of kindness and compassion amidst the suffering, reminding them of the power of hope.

Themes and Insights

  • Resilience: The novel explores the theme of resilience as the characters face the challenges of the pandemic and find strength within themselves and each other.
  • Family bonds: The Bright family's love and support for one another are tested during the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of family bonds in times of adversity.
  • The fragility of life: The Spanish flu pandemic serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing each moment.
  • Finding hope in dark times: The novel highlights the power of hope and finding light even in the darkest of times.

Reader's Takeaway

"As Bright as Heaven" is a poignant and emotional novel that transports readers to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Meissner's beautifully crafted characters and vivid storytelling make this historical fiction a compelling and heartfelt read. The themes of resilience, family bonds, and the power of hope resonate deeply, leaving readers with a renewed appreciation for the strength of the human spirit.

Conclusion

Susan Meissner's "As Bright as Heaven" offers a captivating glimpse into the lives of the Bright family during the Spanish flu pandemic. Through their struggles, losses, and moments of resilience, readers are reminded of the enduring power of hope and the importance of family bonds. This beautifully written novel is a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

As Bright as Heaven FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    'As Bright as Heaven' is a historical fiction novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    The author of 'As Bright as Heaven' is Susan Meissner.

  3. What is the setting of 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    'As Bright as Heaven' is set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

  4. What is the main theme of 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    The main theme of 'As Bright as Heaven' is resilience and finding hope in the face of tragedy.

  5. What is the plot of 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    'As Bright as Heaven' follows the Bright family who moves to Philadelphia and opens a funeral home during the devastating Spanish flu pandemic. The story explores their experiences, losses, and the strength they find to rebuild their lives.

  6. Are there multiple narrators in 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    Yes, 'As Bright as Heaven' is narrated from the perspectives of different family members, providing a multi-dimensional view of the story.

  7. Is 'As Bright as Heaven' based on a true story?

    'As Bright as Heaven' is a work of fiction, but it is inspired by the author's research on the Spanish flu pandemic and its impact on families.

  8. Does 'As Bright as Heaven' have any major twists or surprises?

    Yes, 'As Bright as Heaven' has some unexpected twists and surprises that add depth and suspense to the story.

  9. What are some similar books to 'As Bright as Heaven'?

    Readers who enjoyed 'As Bright as Heaven' may also like 'The Great Influenza' by John M. Barry, 'The Orphan Collector' by Ellen Marie Wiseman, and 'The Girls with No Names' by Serena Burdick.

  10. Is 'As Bright as Heaven' suitable for young readers?

    'As Bright as Heaven' is more suitable for adult readers due to its mature themes and historical context.