As Bright as Heaven

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

I feel like this book needs another good edit and it would be much better. The first half and the second half didn’t really seem to go together. The ending was kind of weird. It was kind of just all over the place to me.
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Meissner really brought to life this time period, and her characters were so real.  I think anyone who has experienced grief will be able to relate to this story.
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I loved this book! Books that invite me into a person's heart and mind (fictional or real) captivate me. Beautifully crafted. I couldn't put it down. Sometimes I feel like my mind is like a pinball machine with thoughts bouncing around and then emotion seeps into the trails of thought and joy or ache energizes the thoughts whether I want it to or not. Sometimes life seems very random and then a switch is flipped and it seems fate has walked beside you every step of the way. This book spoke to me and I listened, learned and enjoyed every minute of the conversation.
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How to describe the gentle beauty that is a Susan Meissner story? In this novel we readers experience hope, sorrow, joy, loss, love, and life through the hearts of the four Bright women. The aptly-named Brights touch the lives around them in a special way. Their stories cause us to cherish the timeless intangibles that make life so precious.

I have sat at the bedsides of those I love, when the veil between Heaven & Earth lifted for them to pass through. These beautiful words from the story capture such moments. They will stay with me . . . 

“I had no idea the gap between earth and heaven is narrow, no wider than a jump over a brook. I’d always thought heaven was so far from the living, no one could measure its distance from earth. Even the wisest person ever born couldn’t look up at the night sky through the most powerful telescope and catch a glimpse of heaven, it was that far off. 

That was the only part of knowing there is a heaven that used to frighten me—how far away it was . . . how could heaven be Paradise . . . if I was so far away no mortal could gauge the breadth of the distance that separated us? 

This is why Death stayed with me . . . All this time my companion has been trying to show me that the space between the two worlds is not so vast. 

Heaven is just on the other side of waking . . . 

There is only the stunningly fragile human body, a holy creation capable of loving with such astonishing strength but which is weak to the curses of a fallen world. We are like butterflies, delicate and wonderful, here on earth for only a brilliant moment and then away we fly. Death is appointed to merely close the door to our suffering and open wide the gate to Paradise.

I can feel the canopy lifting, and I am not afraid . . . Look! Can you see it? It’s so beautiful! Look! So beautiful! Beautiful . . .”

I highly recommend! (And also advise keeping some tissues handy.)
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This book is incredibly beautiful! It starts in 1918 and goes through WWI, the deadly Spanish Flu and the Bright family's Funeral Parlor and all that entailed. It is truly a remarkable, poignant saga that captivated me, through every page, long into many nights. I savored each character, felt all of their sorrow, their pain, their emotions, and wept through out their trials, yet smiled and laughed with their joyful times. Pauline, Mom, Thomas Dad, the girls, Evie the oldest, Maggie, and little Willa all missed their son and baby brother Henry who died too soon at 6 months old. Each chapter is written in alternating character's voice which gives such depth and knowledge of their individual thoughts and actions. This story of love, loss, and redemption is written with such reality and compassion it filled my heart at each event but had me completely surprised at the ending that I didn't see coming. The descriptions were so vivid you could just imagine being a bystander, the story development woven together brilliantly, I loved this book and am still thinking about it.
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Another great read from Susan Meissner.  I love her writing style!  She really draws you in and makes you feel like you're right there in the story.  Can't wait for her next book!!
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I love novels with multiple narrators. This book is a perfect example of this style of writing, so I was automatically hooked. I also LOVED “A Bridge Across the Ocean,” and while I love this book as well, it is very different. Where “A Bridge Across the Ocean” is a mystery, this novel focuses more on the family dynamic amidst a new city, a war, and gender-roles. There are Mysterious factors at play, but I wouldn’t categorize it as a mystery/thriller novel. Thus, I’m extremely impressed with Meissner’s ability to excel in multiple literary genres. Also, she continues to impress with her impeccable research, which make her novels historically accurate, while giving the reader an emotionally beautiful narrative weaving many different relationships together. My only critique is that the ending is a little too “Disney” for me. The happiness of Maggie and Evie being tied so drastically to their romantic relationships is somewhat irksome, but despite that I thoroughly enjoyed the depths of Meissner’s writing.
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I can never put down a Susan Meissner book and this one was no exception. I love the way she brings to light historical events in a new and emotional way. Can't remember how many times I needed a tissue on this read--but it was more than once!
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This is historical fiction at its finest!!! A novel that not only teaches you about a moment in time, but also captivates your attention with a beautifully told storyline. This book is set in Philadelphia and covers the Great War as well as the horrific effects of the Spanish flu epidemic. Goodness, I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying this time must have been. Meissner had the brilliant idea to place her characters in a family run funeral home business. This created quite a few eye opening scenes. It also made death a relevant topic. The cast learns to live through all aspects of death because they are constantly surrounded by it. It was a great way to show how different circumstances all cause the same heartache, regret, lead you to sudden actions and can even cause mental illness. 

This story is told in alternating perspective from the ladies in the Bright family. What makes this fantastic is the varying age groups and how they each perceived a certain situation differently. We have Pauline, the mother, and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie and Willa. I ached for Pauline. She is haunted by the loss of her infant son. Her feelings and inner dialogue were absolutely heartbreaking. I loved the three girls because they grow up as the story progresses. It was interesting to switch between the maturity levels when they were young and then finish with watching them take their harsh experiences and learn to deal with their own problems later in life. 

The second part of the book does contain a bit of a mystery. I figured out the details fairly early, but was still interested to see how everything slowly weaved together for the big reveal. Overall, this was simply a wonderfully told story. Susan Meissner has a gift for sharing this style of writing. I absolutely loved A Bridge Across the Ocean and will definitley be on the lookout for furture books.
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Oh my goodness, I loved this historical fiction novel about an ordinary family during an extraordinary time. The Bright family is moving to Philadelphia and it’s the outbreak of WWI. Along with the war comes the pandemic of Spanish Flu, which kills thousands of previously healthy young people. This family has to much loss to deal with, crisis, and challenges. Then in one of their darkest hours, one of the daughters finds a little baby and takes him home so that they can raise him and bring some light into their lives.

This story is told in the four distinct voices of the four main character women: Evelyn, the intelligent, eldest daughter, Maggie, who finds the baby and is quite determined, Willa, the spunky and headstrong youngest, and their gentle, kind mother Pauline. I loved the story and the characters and the message.

I have never read any of Meissner’s other novels, so I will need to look for them.

Thank you for my review kindle copy via Net Galley!
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Opening line:
"Morning light shimmers on the apricot horizon as I stand at the place where my baby boy rests."

AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN is a story of family, love and death set during WWI. I became fascinated by WWI and the Spanish Flu a few years ago and I will be adding this book to my growing WWI shelf. 
Told from the different perspectives of the Bright women, we get a unique view from different ages and personalities into their lives and what it was like to live through the worse pandemic in history. 
An uncle in Philadelphia has no children, no heirs, and wants to leave everything to Mr. Bright. He is an undertaker and wants to teach him the business and pass it on. He takes the family from  country life and introduces them to city life.
Pauline is the mother and fiercely protective of her daughters, especially after having lost a baby son. 
Evie is the oldest and the pragmatic one. 
Maggie is sensitive, wants answers but leads with her heart.
Willa is the youngest and is headstrong and lets her emotions out. 
There are so many intriguing threads that weave together nicely, and sometimes a little tangled, in this story. The story setting, the characters, the POVs kept me reading all day, wanting to know what would happen to this family. 
The story also teaches there is more than one way to be a family--being needed is one of them. The neighbors, the orphaned baby, even speakeasy owners can all become family.. 

Ten swear words (damn and hell); one scene where an unmarried woman and married man had sex but I wasn't totally sure and had to reread the passage a couple of times. It's very subtle and vague. War, death, sickness is talked about and seen throughout the book.

Thanks to netgalley for the read!
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First line: Morning light shimmers on the apricot horizon as I stand at the place where my baby boy rests.

Summary: When the Bright family, Thomas, Pauline and their three daughters, decide that they are going to move to Philadelphia they believe that it will be a new start away from the sorrow of the last few months. Thomas is apprenticing his uncle’s mortuary business. This seems a strange place to bring a family after the loss of their infant son and brother but for Pauline it helps her heal and understand death better. But suddenly the war and the Spanish Flu descend on the family. They have to deal with more than they ever expected.

Highlights: Susan Meissner can write beautiful stories rich with historical detail and human emotion. Her characters are always amazing and deep. It was a very fitting time to read about the flu after the strong strain that hit the U.S. this year. It is also the 100th anniversary of the epidemic. I liked the love stories and the history.
“She says the flu wanted to make barbarians of us, to have us think life is not precious and the dead are not worthy of our kindest care. Our humanity is what made what happened to us so terrible. Without it, nothing matters.”
Lowlights: I felt like the narratives of Pauline and Willa were not completely necessary. They did not provide too much to the story. The story could have been shortened by 50 pages or so. I ended up skimming the last 40 pages to see how the characters and story wrapped up.

FYI: I loved her book, The Secrets of a Charmed Life.
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I read this book earlier this year. I’ve read almost of this author’s books. I thought this one was really good just like her previous ones. I liked all the characters, I found the history in the story interesting and also alittle sad.
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Wow.....Have your tissues ready because you will feel all the feels. ‘As Bright as Heaven’ is storytelling at its best. This is the first book that I have read by Susan Meissner, but it certainly won’t be the last. When I started ‘As Bright as Heaven’, I had no idea about the plot or the setting. I was surprised to discover that much of the story takes places in a funeral home during the Spanish Flu Epidemic in 1918.  I’ve never read a book with the setting of a funeral home, or about the Spanish Flu for that matter. I found the funeral home setting kind of odd at first but it then it quickly becomes part of the story and the author brings out all the good that is done at a funeral home. I enjoyed how the family embraced life and work on the funeral home and made it their own.
The author does an excellent job at making characters come alive for the reader. You share in their decisions and feel their heartbreak.
The author gives the reader a lot to think about concerning death as well as fate. Highly emotional book, well worth reading.
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I have always been fascinated by natural disasters and how the human spirit can triumph over tragedy. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner tells the story of a family who moves to Philadelphia during World War I, in order to start over after the loss of their youngest child. Thomas Bright joins his uncle in his funeral parlor business, believing his three daughters and wife will flourish in the booming town. Told through the four different perspectives of his wife, Pauline, and three daughters, Evie, Maggie, and Willa, the story of the worst pandemic in history, the Spanish Influenza of 1918, is told and how the survivors tried to piece their lives back together. 

I loved the story and the writing, although I felt that the ending was a little drawn out and somewhat unnecessary. There are two parts to this story- the main one that takes us through the pandemic and the immediate aftermath of the pandemic and the subsequent ending of World War I, and the second part, which takes place seven years later. To avoid spoilers, I won't go into much detail, but of the four storylines in part two, I felt that Evie's and Willa's weren't really necessary to the story as a whole. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will be looking into the further reading Meissner recommended at the end.
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This was one of the book selections for Book Of The Month Club a few months back. I finally got around to reading it and I am so glad I did. I really enjoyed it! The characters were all likeable and made fairly realistic life decisions. Susan Meissner did extensive research on the subject of the Spanish Flu and it really shows in her writing. The details are rich and descriptive which makes reading a story about something tragic like war time with the additional epidemic all the more real. Something I enjoy while at the same time dread, is a book in which I know characters will die. It makes the stakes higher in terms of my emotional connection to a story. If  none of the characters die in a story about death, it would feel false and cheapen the story. The fact that this story takes place during a time when my parents weren't even born is exciting to me too. Heck, my Grandparents weren't even born!

Susan wrote a note to her readers at the end of the story that I loved. Here it is for you to enjoy:

    "Death comes for us all in one way or another. It is a certainty. Our lives will one day end, and most of us will never know when. Interestingly enough, it is our mortality that gives our existence its value and beauty. If our days were not numbered, we probably wouldn't care how we spent them. How does this knowledge that we are mortal affect our choices? The risks we take? The risks we don't? These were the questions I wanted to explore as I wrote this book and that I wanted you to ponder as you read it. We are, all of us, living out the stories of our lives. Each of our stories will end, in time, but meanwhile, we fill the pages of our existence with all the love can, for as long as we can. This is how we make a life."

This note really touched my heart. My family is currently on the final step of a very long process. We have chosen to move out of the state where we have grown up, and will be moving away from all of our family and friends. This is a risk that we are taking, and I hope it is a bright spot in our life's story.
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Fantastic writting, interesting characters and absolute impossible to forget story!!  From the moment I met the Bright family, and of course it was in my old haunt of Quakertown, PA, I fell in love with them all! As they moved and developed lives of their own, I grew more interested and devoted to them.  The history of the Spanish Flu and it taking place in my hometown was just icing on the cake!
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As Bright As Heaven starts in 1918 in Philadelphia. America is fighting in the Great War, and the Spanish Flu is sweeping the world. The Bright family must adjust to a new way of life, one they did not ask for. 

I did not know much about the Spanish Flu before reading As Bright As Heaven. Meissner was able to bring it to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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Meissner's tale of three sisters living through the 1918 flu epidemic and its aftermath is compelling and emotionally wrenching. A haunting read.
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After reading A Bridge Across the Ocean, I became an instant fan of Meissner's. I enjoyed Meissner's ability to create intriguing characters and her grasp of historical storytelling. As such when I picked up this book, I had a lot of expectations going in. This book tells the story of the Spanish flu, WWI and the roaring 20's set in the backdrop of Philadelphia through the eyes of three sisters and at one point their mother. Each sister is going on a different path but lends an unique perspective to life in the Bright household and Philadelphia during this time period. I will say that Meissner has definitely not lost her touch in the historical telling. She gives her readers just enough detail to pull them into that time, but not so much where it is overwhelming. While her characterization for both Evie or Evelyn and Maggie seems spot on to what I have expected (the older sisters), Willa was difficult. As a child she seemed a plot device, a means to end in making the girls motherless. As a teenager, I hoped she would fare better. But ultimately, she seemed to continue as a vehicle of the times -- showing readers the underbelly of speakeasies during prohibition. Beyond this, she didn't lend much to the story. While Maggie and Evie had some similar functionality as characters (particularly Evie's view as psychiatrist in training), they still lent enough to the story to be interesting. Beyond that, I was glad to get out of the flu section. That really dragged for me and I had trouble getting through it. Overall, not as good as her last book, but I would be interested more of her work in the future.
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