Author: Susan Meissner

Publisher: Berkley

ISBN-10: 0399585966

ISBN-13: 978-0399585968

Release Date: February 6, 2018

 This is the type of story that, upon reading the last page, you slowly close the book, close your eyes, sigh and reflect. So many emotions roil through your mind and it takes some thought to allow them to settle. 

I don’t want the girls to end up mirroring this life of mine, in a place where nothing truly changes but the contours of your heart. More than that, I want to know why Death seems to walk beside me like a companion now rather than prowling behind like a shadowy specter. ~[Pauline] excerpt

I didn’t know what to expect from As Bright As Heaven. I’ve read other books by Susan Meissner, (Secrets of a Charmed Life is a favorite) so I was confident the author was a gifted storyteller who infuses deep emotion in her work, and I was drawn in by the exquisite cover art. But upon choosing a book to read, I normally only skim over the blurb to avoid learning ‘too much,’ so all I basically knew was the story was set in Philadelphia during the First World War.

I started wishing I could always live in a place where all the answers are, even the answers I don’t like hearing. ~[Evelyn] excerpt 

I’m glad I didn’t know more, because learning each aspect of the multi-faceted story as it happened surprised me, grabbed me, and refused to release me. The storyline is riveting, the storytelling is stunning, and each heartbreaking challenge encountered is delicately wrapped in the hope and strength of the human spirit.

You think you have a view of what’s waiting for you just up the road, but then something happens, and you find out pretty quick you were looking at the wrong road. ~[Maggie] excerpt 

The story is presented in two parts, before the First World War and Spanish Flu pandemic (1918-1919) and after (1925.) The narration is voiced from the four riveting first-person points of view; the mother and three daughters of the Bright family—Pauline, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa.

I became attached to each girl. They have distinct voices and views of the world, but I mostly connected and sympathized with Maggie. Perhaps because I’m also a middle sister. 

I want to watch the outside zip past like it’s trying to catch us and take us back to where we used to be. ~[Willa] excerpt

Not only was I drawn into the Bright’s story, and pulled into the early 1900s and the hardships and atrocities endured and succumbed to, but I also learned much about the history of the Influenza (Spanish Flu) pandemic—the deadliest disease in history! I also have a better understanding of what it meant to be the wife and daughter of an undertaker during this time period, how widespread the Spanish Flu was distributed, precautions taken (or not,) and how bodies were delivered, prepared, and presented (or not) during the outbreak.

The Bright family finds themselves in a new city, new home, and new life after the death of their youngest Bright, only months-old, baby Henry. With death, war, sickness, and heartbreak around every corner, will they have the strength and desire to do more than exist in the new world they’ve been propelled into? 

Without giving you more of a description or breakdown of the story, I can tell you that you will learn a lot.

You will most likely shed some tears, and find yourself in the circle of life and death, sadness and hope, heartbreak and healing. You might even wonder why you’re willingly putting yourself through such a host of emotions. But upon completion of the book, I doubt you’ll be able to forget a single member of the Bright family. And I’m also confident that you’ll be forever changed. Yes. It’s that powerful. 

Something has begun deep within me. I don’t understand what it is. I just don’t want it to stop, even though it scares me a little. I don’t want to go back to where I was yesterday. ~[Maggie] excerpt

As Bright As Heaven is much more than a story. It is a powerful, riveting, unforgettable experience.

About the Author: Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Some of her novels include A Bridge Across the Ocean; Secrets of a Charmed Life, and A Fall of Marigolds. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan, a California native, is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults.