Cover Image: The Bright Unknown

The Bright Unknown

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Bright Unknown
By  Elizabeth Byler Younts

Brighton Friedrich has only known the Riverside Home for the Insane, born in the asylum she can never leave - it's the law. She's not a patient but most definitely a prisoner and in someways a pet to a few of the nurses. Brighton knows all too well the pain and misery that lives in this place that offers to heal but in fact, does more harm than anything.

More than 50 years have passed and the girl she once was has been pushed into the hidden recesses of her mind until she receives a package from someone named Kelly Keene. The old memories come back and she is faced with a choice - allow Brighton to resurface or keep her forever locked away.


The Bright Unknown is a book well worth reading but at the same time it hurts the soul as one experiences what Brighton went through when she was in Riverside. The very means that were used to subdue and restrain are just so inhumane and when one thinks that this occurred in the 1930s and 1940s it is almost unbelievable that we claimed to be a civilized society and wanted to force our civilized ways on others. 

This book is told in memories so it is not presented in a linear chronology so the reader will need to note at the beginning of each chapter the year. But this is more than a life imprisoned as Brighton manages to get the one thing she always wanted a life outside. But when you have never experienced what lies beyond freedom can be almost as frightening as the pain and grief that she had always seen. This is a story of perseverance and the strength that the right friend can give when you most need it. The Bright Unknown gave Brighton what she needed - a dream of the life she and her mother might have had, a dream of a future that was beyond the known. This is a story of the triumph and endurance of the human spirit. Would make an excellent book club selection.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book with no expectations but that I provide honest opinion all thoughts expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Taking place in rural Pennsylvania , which is where I live this book caught my eye. I enjoy reading about the struggles people go through in asylums too so I knew this would be a perfect fit for me.
This was a quick read for me one I started it I could hardly put it down.
I went through a real mixed bag of emotions reading it anger,wonder,feeling pain for the characters,happiness,heartbreak and truly wondering how humans could treat each other in such a manner.
This book is bold,bright,beautiful,gritty and not afraid to explore past history in a way that makes this story stick with you. Unforgettable a true must read!
Thank you Elizabeth Byler Younts for a phenomenal story!

Published October 22nd 2019 by Thomas Nelson
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that sat in my NetGalley tbr for far too long. I have no idea why I kept skipping it for others, and it’s now one of the best books I’ve read this year.

First, The Bright Unknown is beautifully written. It’s descriptive (painfully so at times) and well-paced, with a fully realized character in Brighton. I truly felt like I grew up with her, and felt her feelings right along with her. The characters of Nursey, Angel, and Grace are also well-drawn and authentic. The story feels researched and very much within its time historically. I’ve not read any other books by this author, but I will most definitely be looking for more of her work.

I really appreciated the way the author dealt with the harsh reality of how people with mental illnesses and people on the fringes of society were treated in our institutions in the not-so-distant past. The book is gritty and heartbreaking, and even though poor Brighton has never known anything but Riverside, and the patients and staff there are her friends and family, the reader truly feels the horror, neglect, and sadness of the poor souls trapped within its walls. I think this quote near the end, from grown-up Nell, perfectly summarizes my feelings having finished the book:

“Don’t forget that thousand of souls lived and died there and were ostracized by society. Many are buried in the back corner because no one claimed their bodies. Don’t forget the history of what has happened at Riverside and other facilities like it, and don’t let history repeat itself. And when you meet someone who might struggle with mental illness, see the person behind the frightened eyes. Not just the diagnosis.”

Even when Brighton and Angel are able to escape, they have a long way to go both physically and emotionally on their own in the world for the first time. There are times that things outside seem even less hopeful and bleak than things were in the asylum. Thankfully, the endings of both timelines were uplifting and positive… I needed that in my life right now!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, coming-of-age stories that don’t shy away from the darker side of society. If you’re anything like me, you will need to have some tissues handy, though. It’s a powerful story that will take your heart apart and still leave you hopeful.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Byler Younts is an author whose abilities to provide a strong sense of place along with well developed characters is unparalleled.  This is a story whose theme should be noticed -- what has happened to you is an experience, not a life sentence.  This is explored beautifully in this book.  Wonderful!
Was this review helpful?
The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is a rare gem, a masterpiece of lyrical writing, rich characterization, sublime storytelling, emotion and hope. I was about to give up on ever finding a novel of this high quality in the Christian fiction genre. It’s not an easy read nor a fast one, but rather a compelling read that begs to be experienced. Kindness, caring, and innocence are contrasted with ignorance and greed. With a timeless relevancy, it forces us to examine the way we perceive those who are different, to see beyond the diagnosis. My mind, heart and emotions were captured with the first sentence and never wavered.

The Bright Unknown is Brighton’s story, a young girl born and raised at the Riverside Home for the Insane in the 1940s era. Life there was all she had known and was therefore normal, until suddenly it wasn’t – all because of a girl named Grace. Brighton’s friendship with another resident, who she named Angel, is priceless. The plight of the patients is hard to read, for in a time when ignorance abounded regarding mental illness, some were there simply because their families wanted them committed. 

One strength of this story is the author’s exquisite prose and I savored every word and nuance of expression. This is just one example … “The flowering weeping willow’s boughs reached for me in the summery breath. It called out to me. Come to me. Let my delicate white tears fall over you. I extended my hand, even though I knew the branches were too far away to let their beauty cry over me.”

The Bright Unknown may seem like a dark story – and it is – but themes of hope, forgiveness and redemption are woven throughout. The conclusion is so very satisfying. The writing of Elizabeth Byler Younts is not to be missed, and The Bright Unknown goes on my “best of the best” list.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours and Thomas Nelson. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Was this review helpful?
The cover of this book drew me right away and than the back of the book told me I would need to read this. I wasn't prepared for the ride this book took me on.
Brighton was born into an insane asylum. She knows no other life. The story captures her life and shows us the inside workings of 1920's asylums. How people can do some of those things to others has always been beyond my imagination. Brighton drew me in and I wanted nothing more to hug her, rescue her and take her home. She was broken but never destroyed. It is so sad that people who didn't speak English, had anxiety or postpartum depression were sent to these places. They were not given care. This has always been something I have never understood.
Angel was left on the steps of the asylum because of the color of his skin. People assumed so much just because of the way he looked. I loved the friendship between Angel and Brighton. I could go on and on about these two. They cared for each other and in all honesty kept each other for going insane.
Though this book was difficult to read at times I couldn't put it down and I will always carry a piece of it in my heart forever. This is a book that will draw you in and won't let you go. When it is over you actually will be sad because you are so attached to the characters in this book.
If I could give 10 stars I would because it was simply incredible. I highly recommend everyone to read it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Was this review helpful?
A heartbreakingly poignant story of friendship, resilience, survival, courage and hope.



Brighton Friedrich has never known a life beyond the walls of the Riverside Home, an asylum for the insane and unwanted. She was born there, where her mother is a patient. She makes friends among the patients, bonding with a beautiful boy affected by albinism, whom she names Angel, and a girl abandoned by her parents named Grace.



She and her friends makes plans to escape the asylum, for a chance at life on the outside. But are she and Angel ready to face the challenges and dangers of a world they have never experienced?



Told through the eyes of Brighton, rolling forward and back in time through the years as she remembers the painful years in the asylum as well as the friends, betrayals and struggle for survival. Beautifully written this book took me captive, as I sympathized with Brighton's horrible plight, clinging to piece after piece of shattered hope.



Secrets are revealed as the time rolls forward and back, yet there are many surprises and twists along the way. I love how the author was able to write such complex and developed characters, no one was all good or all bad, and I loved the challenge of accepting each of them as they were.



Overall, a poignant and heartbreaking read that at times was hard to continue, yet the gimmers of hope kept me holding on along with Brighton. Filled with hope, in even the most stark of places, this is a heartfelt read that you won't soon forget, well worth the read!



I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Was this review helpful?
I loved Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts and I loved this book as well . I was absolutely captivated from the first page to the last and I did not want it to end. 

  I’ve always felt that we, as a whole, do a poor job of taking care of people with mental health issues.  Ive read several other books from this time period and based In an asylum and this one is the best so far. There is nothing I love more than a book that draws you right in to the story and makes you feel like you’re there in that moment. This book does just that.
Was this review helpful?
What a fascinating novel! Elizabeth Byler Younts has written a powerfully moving story about a young girl raised as the only child in an adult insane asylum.

The story travels two timelines - 1937 and 1990 as the protagonist Brighton Friedrich comes to grips with the horrors of never really knowing who you are. Sharing a room with a mentally disabled mother and being raised for a caring nurse named Rose create a life that no one should be forced to endure.

Lies and secrets make escape even more treacherous for Brighton and her friend Angel, an albino boy with vague memories of a once loving family. Friendships made - and lost - leave lasting marks and the pair try to secure a future built on a crumbly foundation.

Grab a couple boxes of tissues because you will need them.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Brighton was raised in an asylum after her mother gave birth to her there.  She knows her existence is different than most people's and wonders about life outside the asylum.  Her only friend there is a boy she calls Angel; his parents left him in the children's side of the asylum because he is albino.  The two plan an escape and then realize they have no idea what to do out in the real world.  They hope to find a home of their own.

I felt horrible about the things the residents of the asylum had to endure, but I never fully connected with the characters of this book.  There was a “surprise” twist at the end that I saw from almost the beginning.  It's not a bad story, just not one of my favorites of the year.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Byler Younts captured my heart in the saddest way in her novel, The Bright Unknown. I was so moved by the painful childhoods of Brighton (aka Nell) and Angel. As we traveled through their life, I loved seeing the redemption that took place... but the unimaginable pain they experienced as a result of a childhood in an asylum was awful to read and consider. I will definitely read more by this author in the future! The ending was perfect.
Was this review helpful?
A heartbreaking story of survival and friendship comes to life in author Elizabeth Byler Younts novel, The Bright Unknonw.  Although Younts has written a fiction story, she brings to life the horrific circumstances of a variety of types of people, those who really need to be there and those that do not, living inside an insane asylum.  It is a beautifully and powerfully written story that is both depressing and enlightening.  Younts tackles a hard subject matter with beautiful efficiency.  This novel is not for the faint of heart.  It’s hard, and wonderful, and emotional, and a story that will leave readers thinking about it long after they turn the last page.
 
Genre: historical, Christian
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication date: October 22, 2019
Number of pages: 368
Was this review helpful?
Pennsylvania, 1937, and all fourteen-year-old Brighton Friedrich has ever known is life at the Riverside Home for the Insane. She was born there to a mother experiencing severe paranoia and psychosis, and knows nothing else. She has a best friend (a boy sent to the asylum because of his albinism) who she names Angel, and a handful of medical staff who treat her with kindness.

As Brighton grows and it becomes more and more apparent that she may never be allowed leave Riverside, she becomes determined to get out of there and take her friends with her. But even if she did leave, how could she survive in a world she knows nothing about? If she could run, who would she run to?

We've all seen those memes shared around social media with the reasons why women were institutionalised in the 18th & 19th (and more than likely the 20th) centuries. Reasons varying from "hysteria" to "imagined female trouble" and "immoral life". These were very, very real women, subjected to treatments like electro shock therapy, lobotomy, sterilization - all because they didn't fit in with society in some way. While this isn't a true story in that Brighton isn't a real life person, this DID happen to people. Regularly.

This isn't a pleasant read, but it's a part of history that we should be reminded of. And it's a reminder that no matter how bad things can be, hope is one thing that can never, ever be taken away from anyone.
Was this review helpful?
A touching novel set on two timelines, one in 1990 and one back in 1937-1941.  Brighton was born in an asylum because her mom was a patient there.  She knew know other life and thought it was normal to live and grow up there.  It was sad.  She saw all the terrible treatment of people who were put there for medical reasons or other completely invalid reasons that made sense at all.  Her best friend didn't even have a name so she gave him one.  Her other friend was there for being in love with the wrong person and was sadly forced to undergo sterilization and a lobotomy.  The terrors of the treatment and the ignorance of people with mental disorders in this time period is absolutely horrifying to read about.  Well-written with hope and forgiveness weaved throughout this very difficult story.  Amazing read!! Thanks to NG for the ARC!!!
Was this review helpful?
Heart-wrenching. That is the best way I can think to describe this incredible tale.  I am so glad that I decided to read this story.  It's plot line is so engrossed in the asylum world, you'll feel you're watching it take place.  Brighton and Angel are such fantastic lead characters, their stories will drag you into their reality.  This haunting story will open your eyes to the harshness of insane asylum's of the past, but also fill you with the joy that there is hope even in the darkest of situations!  

I received of complimentary copy of this story through NetGalley.  All opinions expressed are my own.
Was this review helpful?
The Bright Unknown is one of the most thought-provoking novels I've read. Elizabeth Byler Younts draws the reader deeply into the unconventional (to say the least) life of Brighton, raised entirely behind the walls of an early 2oth-century mental institution. Through beautiful and reflective prose and a steady story progression, she builds empathy for not only Brighton and her albino friend Angel, but for the patients and the sometimes-villainous staff as well.

But things go from bad to worse when Brighton and Angel gain their freedom, embarking on a journey into an unknown that's more dimly lit than bright. But always, there is a spark of hope.

That's the hallmark of the novel - a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of the light of Christ, however small, however unevenly it shines. It's a glimmer here and there from a friend, an aide, a relative, or a stranger, that finally delivers Brighton to freedom.

The author also shines a light on real historical injustice that may be hard to reconcile, but which should nevertheless be faced.

A stellar read you should not miss.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts, so when I saw this on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I never read the back cover blurb on books anymore because sometimes there’s just too many spoilers. I wish I would’ve read the back of this one before I requested it. 

About 50% of this story takes place in an insane asylum where both Angel and Brighton, who are children, live. The 2nd half of the story takes place outside of the asylum, where they are trying to find a normal life. 

For me, I think the story would have worked better if the majority of the book would have taken place after they left the asylum. The second half of the story was not happy or light enough to overcome the overall negative feel that the book left me with.
Was this review helpful?
DNF

This wasn't really my "cup of tea". It was an interesting idea, but there wasn't a lot of action. I felt bored out of my mind. *shrugs*

**FTC DISCLOSURE** I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Was this review helpful?
I thought that the history of this book was interesting, but I didn't care for Elizabeth's style. Especially when it came to writing about the nurse's love life.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! This book was heart wrenching, eye opening, tear jerking, and also made me smile and feel happy Never though a book could bring about so many emotions. Brighton and Angel are the prefect pair and their life story was just so amazing. How two people can go through everything they did and make it out and thrive. I'm so glad that all the insane asylums are forever closed. I felt so much sadness as I read through the book and read about the experiences of people in those places. It is sad that a husband could send his wife to an asylum for literally anything and parents their children. ridiculous and so sad. 
I truly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone.
Was this review helpful?