The Bright Unknown

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Elizabeth Byler Younts certainly knows how to make a BIG impact on a reader’s heart with her stories. The Bright Unknown is thought provoking, moving, and shines a light on some issues that perhaps are too often overlooked by many. It is not a light read by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a book that should be read by all. There were times were I had to stop reading, and just soak in the chapter. You see, I wasn’t just reading the book, I was experiencing it.

Brighton was such a fascinating character, and her journey was one that I couldn’t pull away from. Here is a young girl, living in a place she shouldn’t be, but just adapting to life. It was all she ever knew, and with the help of a friend or two somehow made it manageable. But that did not negate all that she saw and experienced while she was there. It was an eye opening experience for me, as a reader. Did I think all these things probable happened to mental health patients back in those days? It is certainly a good possibility, especially remembering how “healthcare” was so different back then. I am not going to lie, some of it was quite disturbing, but Younts somehow manages to poetically and beautifully write the scenes in a way that urge you to keep going.

One bright part was seeing Brighton in “current day”, which was 1990 for the purpose of this book. It kind of shows the reader early on that there was light at the end of her tunnel, we just had to read the journey it took her to get there. And frankly, these little blurbs of present day material were just what I needed to have an emotional break from the turmoil that was going on inside my heart. Not trying to discourage anyone at all from reading this – I think it’s good to read stories that stir up feelings inside of us and really speak to our emotions.

Readers, have your tissues handy, pour some hot chocolate, and find a comfy reading spot. I think you’ll find yourselves drawn to Brighton and her journey. I know I was. I’m still thinking about them in fact! I can see this on the best of 2019 lists for many readers. It’s that good! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This book is brilliant!  I couldn't put it down...I was hooked from the start!
Pennsylvania, 1940s. The only life Brighton Friedrich has ever known is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of Riverside Home—the rural asylum where she was born. A nurse, Joann, has educated and raised Brighton, whose mother is a patient at the hospital. But Joann has also kept vital information from Brighton—secrets that if ever revealed would illuminate Brighton’s troubling past and the circumstances that confine her to Riverside. Brighton’s best friend is a boy she calls Angel, and as they grow up together and face the bleak future that awaits them, they determine to make a daring escape.
#TheBrightUnknown #NetGalley
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My Thoughts on The Bright Unknown:
I was intrigued by this novel because of the mental health aspect.  As a nurse who has worked mental health, I’m always interested in what mental health treatment was like before this day and age.  It was rough and it was hard I know but there were bright spots as well.  Enter The Bright Unknown.  

This novel is about a young girl who has spent her entire life within the walls of a mental health asylum.  Her mother gave birth to her there and neither has left.  

Follow her journey of finding out who she is and what the world is really like by reading this great book.

This is the first book by this author that I’ve read.  I love the story behind the book!  For me, it is always so neat to find out the why behind something.  I will listen to a song on the radio and want to know the why behind it.  Why did that happen, what was it inspired by, etc?  This book has a great story behind it and it only made me enjoy it more!

I recommend this book.  It’s a great one.  I really enjoyed getting to know Brighton and follow her along her journey to find out who she really is.  Plus it’s always fun to see someone seeing the real world for the first time!

I have voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from Celebrate Lit. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.
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The Bright Unknown 
By Elizabeth Byler Younts
4.5 stars 

A deep compelling historical novel. 
The author takes us into Riverside asylum in the late 30's early 40's. We meet Brighton who's born there and lives there her first 18 years. We see the reality of mental illness and at times cruel treatment of the patients. It's real but never so far to be gruesome. When Brighton escapes with her friend Angel they try to understand a world that they've never known. The world outside Riverside. 
This novel really kept my interest. I felt compassion for the main characters and learned a lot.
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Wow! I could not put this book down. It follows the story of Brighton who was born in an insane asylum in the late 30s. Cared for and educated by a nurse, this is the only life she knows. When she learns some secrets of her past, she and her childhood friend decide to escape. 
This story is haunting and enthralling. It sheds the light in a very dark time in America’s mental health treatment. I simply couldn’t put it down. 
I received an advanced copy of this book.
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Two young friends embark upon an epic journey across 1940s middle America in search of answers, a family, and a place to call home.



The only kind of life Brighton Turner understands is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of a rural Pennsylvania asylum. A nurse has thoughtfully educated and raised Brighton, but she has also kept vital information from her in order to keep her close. Brighton befriends a boy whom she calls Angel—he doesn’t know his name—and as the two of them learn more about what lies beyond the walls they call home, they fight for their release and eventually escape.



However, the world outside the only place they’ve ever known is not what they expect. They have no real names, no money, and no help—and they must rely upon the kindness of strangers as they walk and hitchhike from Pennsylvania to Michigan to find their last hope of a home.



This heartbreaking journey, narrated in gorgeous prose, explores what it means to belong—and to scour the universe with fresh eyes for the brightness within.

My Thoughts: This is an intriguing book.  From the very first word, the author gains the readers' attention until the end of the book.   The plot is unique as well.  The characters are well developed and gain the reader's heart early in the storyline.  This is a compelling story of a girl growing up in an asylum and the trials that she had to endure.

The author has done an exceptional job of showing the reader what it was like inside an asylum in the 1930s.    I don't want to say too much and spoil the novel, but as I read my heart was with Brighton and hoped she would get out of the asylum.  I can not imagine anyone growing up in a place like that.    This is a powerful novel that keeps the reader entertained to the very end.   If you love a book with some suspense,  with some twists and turns in the plot, mixed with some true love; then this is the book for you.   I look forward to reading more from Elizabeth  Byler Younts.
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After finishing 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐔𝐧𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐧, I don’t understand why I’m not seeing it raved about everywhere. This book is phenomenal! ⁣
⁣
Young girl Bright is born and raised in an insane asylum until her eventual escape. This story of resilience and hope is also heartbreaking and disturbing as we gain an inside look at these asylums during this time period. Bright’s story is extraordinary and I absolutely loved it. The dual timeline storyline added an extra layer to an already amazing plot.⁣
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This is the second book I’ve read by @elizabethbyleryounts_author and both have been 5⭐️ reads. Her writing is spectacular and will completely captivate the reader. This was easily one of my favorite books of the year. ⁣
⁣
Thank you @thomasnelson for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Brighton was born in an asylum to an unstable mother.  She spent the first 18 years of her life there until circumstances finally created an escape  from the prison-like existence.   After many years, she is contacted by a reporter and asked to return and tell her story.
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I have never read a book like this before—a haunting coming-of-age tale with an unusual setting and circumstances. Brighton was born and raised in an insane asylum and has befriended an albino boy whom she calls Angel. Her story alternates between 1990 and 1937, giving glimpses of her older adult self as her personal saga unfolds. The conditions and treatment of patients makes one want to weep or scream. It’s easy to understand how women committed there for trivial things would actually go crazy in such a situation. Although disturbing, the novel maintains an underlying sense of hope. Can the two teens escape? Will they ever learn the truth about their families? What does their future hold? And if they ever leave their confinement, how can they navigate an unknown world? The author’s characterization and story world excells. I recommend this tough, eye-opening tale. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own.
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This is a story that needed to be told.  It gives the reader an up close and personal look at what went on in mental hospitals in the last century, and also the traveling freak shows that exploited people that were different in that time period.  This story starts back in t940s.  The author has her own way of spinning a tale and it is beautiful.  

The story is about Brighton, a young girl born and raised in the asylum that her mother was admitted to when she was pregnant, and raised in the asylum until she was able to get out as an adult.  It is also about her two friends, Angel, an albino who was in the home simply because his parents were embarrassed by him; and Grace, a teenager who was placed in the home by her father because he disapproved of her boyfriend.  

I had trouble putting this book down so I finished it fairly quickly.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good story and is interested in US history around the time of WWII.  You will not be disappointed.  

I have voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from JustRead Publicity Tours.  All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
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Wow! Talk about a powerful story. Set in the 1930s and 40s, The Bright Unknown gives an enlightening view of what it was like in an asylum of the time. Despite their name meaning safety, the reality was they were anything but that. 

In this story, we meet Brighton-a girl born into an asylum where her mother was a patient. She lived there until she was 18 years old. The story jumps back and forth to her life there to 1990 when the film of the photos she'd taken of her life behind these walls is returned to her. It gives a heartbreaking look at that life. Though it is a fictional tale, it does offer what is sadly rather accurate for that time. I'll be honest, this isn't an easy read... not because it's difficult to understand but because it's not a lighthearted read. There were several times that I must admit that I nearly stopped reading not because it was a bad story, but simply because I felt the need to move to something lighter. In the end, I was really glad that I pushed through because it truly turned out to be a great story about hope, love and family. 

It's also a story that needs to be told. As someone who struggles with my own variety of mental health issues and as the mother to an autistic child, it really made me feel blessed that we live in this time that we do. While I certainly believe that we still have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to how we view mental health and neurological differences, this shows us just how far we truly have come. 

Overall, this was a great read. It's not a quick one, and it's not the most joyful at points, but it is an important one nonetheless. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. 

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for consideration. All thoughts are 100% my own.
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In the dark and dusty hallway of the asylum lives a mother and daughter. I felt shivers race down my arms as I began to read this story . It is hard to imagine what it was like long ago to be in a place where there was no where to go. Day after day you see your mother tortured by the demons in her mind. Brighton grows up in this place where only the forgotten and unwanted are. There is no way this story will not get into the crevices of your mind as you weep and applaud  the girl that wants to go beyond the four walls of a hospital.

There are so many secrets buried between the cracks of the hospital that it is frightening. Brighton overhears something about her friend Angel that shakes her to the core.  It was hard to read how Brighton was treated when she threatened to tell what was going on. A young girl tied to a chair and treated like one of the patients became a nightmare that was hard to wake up from.

I enjoyed reading about Angel and Grace. I think with them being there with Brighton it helped her to cope with her need for stability. It was interesting to go back and forth in time and learn who Nell was. Each chapter is intense and the book consumed me. It was dark at times but the author is able to shine hope and forgiveness between the pages.  Brighton wants so bad to live outside the hospital but knows it may never happen. You can feel her desperation to live a normal life as she accepts  that she is trapped in a world where people are dropped off and forgotten.

The power the hospital has over their patients in this story is unimaginable. What person thinks it is right to sterilize women to prevent pregnancy against their will? How can they justify medication to keep patients quiet and out of touch with reality?  This hospital is an example of what happened to people long ago when they knew very little about mental health. Trapped in their bodies were people needing love and compassion, but instead received cold shoulders and uncaring attitudes. 

I don't think I have read a story that is so realistic as this one. The author has a knack for weaving characters that tear at your heart while at the same time wanting to pray for them. I am impressed with how the story flows so easily from the past to present. Along the way secrets are revealed that I didn't expect. The faith element is not overwhelming but with the  perfect blend of hope. It is easy to get so caught up in the story that everything around you becomes a blur. The selfishness by adults in this book is deplorable. They were more worried about what others would think instead of accepting their own child. I have heard about getting lost in the system, but this became more of a cover up.

There is a big significance in the meaning of names in this book. I know that I have never liked my name because people usually pronounce it wrong. What if you have always been called by a particular name only to find out it was not your given name? This is a big part of the story which I was fascinated by. A name is one's identity and it stays with you forever. 

The journey the author takes us on is one I will never forget. I couldn't wait to see if Grace would ever be found or what happens to Angel. One decision  make by different people change the lives of three very important characters in this story. I admire the author for the way she is able to take words and create a story that gives you hope, forgiveness and most of all peace.

I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
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The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is a powerfully emotional time-slip book. With a masterful pen and expert characterization, the talented author draws her readers deep into the life of Brighton, a young woman born and raised in an insane asylum in the 1940s. Brighton's story is unfolded layer by layer by an older Brighton as she looks back into time at her life at the asylum and her escape into 'normal' life.  The people and situations Brighton encounters and experiences are horrifying and yet are depicted so realistically and tactfully. A couple of the things I especially enjoyed about the story are how the author brought in information about photography and also that part of the story is set in Brighton, Michigan, as that is the town in which I live!  The Bright Unknown is a beautifully poignant coming-of-age story, a story of survival and friendship, and I cannot wait to read more from this author. I listened to a library copy of the audiobook and the narrator, Nan Gurley did a wonderful job telling Brighton's story, which made an enjoyable listening experience. 
I received a complimentary copy of the book through Celebrate Lit. A favorable review was not required and opinions are my own. This review is part of a CelebrateLit blog tour.
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This is a really open and honest book about the characters life, in the 1930’s and today.  The story switches between the child’s view of her world inside the mental hospital and her adult life.  The details shared are actually pretty hard to read, and made me feel quite sad for the system of dealing with people who are mental ill.  But I feel the author had a significant story to tell and she was all in.

I would suggest that if mental illness is a struggle for you or a family member, this might not be the book for you, as it is so brutally honest.  But it does give us some rays of hope, in the characters who care for these people and the extra measures of love that were offered.

Disclaimer:  I received a digital copy of this book from the author.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

This is the story of Brighton Friedrich, born within the walls of the Riverside Home for the Insane.  We are first introduced to her in 1990, when she is in her mid-60’s, and the Riverside Home is being razed to make way for a new community center.  Brighton has gone on to make a life for herself outside the Riverside Home, but a reporter contacts Brighton after tracking her down through some belongings left at the home.  Brighton then alternates timelines to tell us her story of how she was not only born there but, surprisingly, she spent her entire childhood, adolescence and teen years there. Her mother was a patient, the inmates were her friends and a nurse tried her best to take care of her.  I did find the premise a bit far-fetched, especially as we get deeper into her life story and more tidbits are revealed. I also found her escape a bit absurd.

The central themes throughout the book are love, loyalty, friendship, endurance, strength.  Brighton recounts the horrors of growing up at the Riverside, and the material is heavy reading.  At that time, women were kept in asylums (much is made of the use of this word throughout the book, as Riverside certainly wasn’t providing protection) by husbands looking for an alternative to divorce, as a means of instilling obedience and compliance in their wives, or just because no one knew how to treat mental illness at the time.  In essence, many were institutionalized and driven insane by their surroundings, living conditions and the inhumane treatments forced on them.

The writing is lyrical and I loved the writing style.  So, why didn’t I like the book more? First, the character development was sketchy.  I was not as invested in them as I thought I should have been and some dialogue is just mawkish. Second, a lot of the stories were repeated. We would see it through Brighton’s eyes as she lived it in 1940-something, then again she would retell it in 1990.  Also, the same types of things were repeated over and over within the 600 pages of this book. It’s heavy reading and, as much as I don’t want to sound dismissive of the story, it just dragged on. Third, not enough time was spent on Brighton’s life after Riverside and before 1990.  And fourth, the ending was predictable. I saw it coming, as much as I wanted to think the author wasn’t going to go in that direction.

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"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."
An amazing, heartbreaking, tough to read, journey of two young people spanning from the 1940's to present day.
This takes place at a time when people could be easily placed in a psychiatric facility for depression, bipolar, loving the wrong person or "being different". 
Brighton was born in an asylum in Pennsylvania.  
Her mother is a resident there, but unable to care for herself or her daughter. 
Does this little girl have other family? Where are they?
Brighton has no idea what goes on in the outside world. She only knows the inside of the walls of this "place".
 She is taught to read, loved and cared for by Nursey- Joann while in the ward.
The books provide Brighton with diversion and some world knowledge.

Brighton meets a young man who becomes her best friend and confidante. She names him Angel. 
He was discarded by his parents because he is an Albino. The family will not embarrass their prominent family by keeping him home and therefore placing him in the institution.
The two enjoy running outside through the graveyard and memorizing names on the headstones. They learn to survive.
There is abuse, overcrowding, torture, isolation, starvation and many other horrendous happenings.

Brighton at seventeen and Angel finally are able to escape to freedom. Where do they go?
 Is it really freedom, if the memories are there?  "Memories are immortal and unchangeable."
This is their story.
I cried, cringed and loved these characters. There is hope and fierce determination. 

It is not an easy read, yet unfortunately very well depicted. 
I did a psychiatric clinical rotation in a facility just as this back in the 1970's. It was exactly this setting! I had nightmares many nights and hated to drag myself there each day.
Well done and  truly a great book!   WOW!
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Brighton Friedrich's only home for 18 years was Riverside Home, a mental health asylum. Her Nursey Joann raised and educated Brighton but also hid important information from her. These secrets confine Brighton to Riverside but could also free her. 
When Brighton and her best friend, an albino named Angel, decide to escape Riverside in the 1940s with help finally from Joann, they discover that they're not prepared for life outside of the asylum, and their families are not prepared for them either. Together, the friends must make their own way. 
Years later, Brighton, now called Nell, is contacted by a young graduate student. Photos have been uncovered at Riverside and reveal the childhood life Brighton endured. Will she be able to expose the past and discover healing or continue to carry the trauma of her childhood? 
"The Bright Unknown" is well written, but it's not an easy read. The trauma Brighton and her asylum friends endures is heartbreaking. I do appreciate the themes of resilience, truth, friendship, and forgiveness.
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This was one of those wow books.  I cried, laughed and was horrified all in the same paragraph at times.  Brighton grew up in an insane asylum because her mother gave birth to her there.  She was not supposed to be able to leave because many people thought she might end up like her mother who had mental health issues.  This was during the 1920’s to the 1940’s.  This was not a good time to be stuck in an asylum.  As this book shows, one didn’t have to do much to be sent to an asylum.  The characters were wonderful.  I received a copy of this book from Celebratelit for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
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This book is quite an experience. The Riverside Home for the insane, Brighton has grown up there. Born in Riverside, Brighton/Nell has started realizing this isn't the life other people have. Angel is her best and only friend, he's an albino and has poor vision physically, but not poor at all in some other ways.

Nurse Joann has kept her from having a "real" life for far too long, but yet is the only one who has raised and taught her. Her father nor any other relatives are in her life, except her mom, who's illness never seems to get cured. Brighton and Angel are alone in the huge wild world, the world beyond the inside of the asylum. So after 18 years of living with truly crazy people, Brighton and Angel are out on their own.

Who is she? What is she to become? What about Angel? There's so, so, so much to answer and learn! Add to this that this book is told in a "flashback" or "then and now" format it covers things from the 30's to the 90's. We know that Nell is free, but what still chains her to the past and why?

This book is dramatic, gripping, gritty, with well-written characters. It will stay with you for a while after the end, and it has a great many twists. The light still shines in the darkness and that theme shines in this book along with such great hope, redemption, and friendship.

Thanks to Celebrate Lit for my copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own, left of my own choosing.
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‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.’ - Saint Francis
‘As long as I kept my eyes open, there was always a sliver of light to follow’ - Brighton

What an incredible book! The author caught my attention with the beginning when voices of the past, found in a canister of 35mm film, wanted to be developed and brought into the light. What follows is a very honest look at what life was like for young Brighton growing up in Riverside Home for the Insane. Fortunately she was loved and cared for by Nursey, who taught her how to read and writer. She had one friend, an albino boy she named Angel, as he had no other name. She shared her knowledge with him and they spent many hours in the graveyard playing and making up stories about the names on the stones.

There is much sadness in this very honest look at what life was like in the Home. The characters are so well developed I felt like I knew them. The plot gathered me in and didn’t let me go until I reached the most wonderful and unexpected ending. 

There was always that hope .... ‘As long as I kept my eyes open, there was always a sliver of light to follow’ - Brighton

This copy was received through NetGalley, Thomas Nelson and CelebrateLit. The impressions and opinions are my own.
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