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Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed author of A Bridge Across the Ocean and The Last Year of the War 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 12,000 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. Amid 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.

©2018 Susan Meissner (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

As Bright as Heaven

Being an avid reader, it takes an exceptional author for me to say" wow, I didn't see that coming ! " 3 times I was surprised by the twist and turns of the story. Most of the time I can anticipate a story line or ending way before it happens. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Susan's books. Narrating Complimented the story, very well done!!!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Spanish Flu and Community

Any additional comments?

Susan Meisner doesn’t disappoint! This was so interesting...and I found myself thinking what would I have done in that situation?!?! It is jarring and fascinating how epidemics impact community and this is a fascinating story of one family and its impact on them.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good story, but slow start

I enjoyed this book overall, the characters were interesting, the historical perspective on the Spanish flu is fascinating, and the writing was great. Still, the story started out really slow and there was a moment when I thought I was just going to quit listening to it. But I’m glad that I kept on because the story ended up getting a lot better about 1/3 of the way through and I was riveted until the end after that.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Susan Meissner book yet

This is, by far, her best book yet. The depth at which the characters develop had me sobbing and rejoicing right along with them.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible & Valuable

The year is 1918 when we meet the Bright family. Thomas and Pauline have just lost their infant son to heart failure...and they, along with their three young daughters (Evelyn, Maggie & Willa) are moving to Philadelphia so Thomas can become a partner in his Uncle Fred’s funeral parlor

In As Bright As Heaven we are a part of their story as they quickly are faced with America entering into The Great War at the same time as the plague of the Spanish Flu is devastating all of Philadelphia and, indeed, the whole world. Obviously the subject of death lays heavy throughout the background of this story but more than this, death actually seems to be another main character as their story is revealed.

There is much heartache but also much love and devotion and very unique characters.

My own grandmother lived through this story in Philadelphia of 1918, when her husband and both children succumbed to the Spanish Flu. So I knew I wanted to read this. I was prepared for sadness obviously but could not possibly have been prepared for the total immersion I would feel as I was sucked into their world.

I loved the audio narration so very much with the different narrators bringing each person perfectly to life...and even, in one case, death.

I HIGHLY recommend this story and can’t even give it the amount of “stars” it deserves.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Could not get thru at all

I loved her other books
This one not at all.
Too sad, too depressing
Her other books are great

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!!

Loved the story, characters and the readings . The prose is beautiful and the characters believable.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Characters underdeveloped

I liked this book, but the second half felt very rushed. The characters had aged, and you had no time to “meet” them before these big events were happening to them.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Slow and strange: just an ok read

I realize that part of the story happens during the Spanish flu of 1918, but the obsession with death and undertaking (the family owns a mortuary) was a bit much. One scene where one of the daughters is standing in the embalming room, curious as to what happens there seemed to go on forever. Then there's a long scene where 2 of the characters are kissing in the embalming room as a dead guy lies on the table behind them that is called “beautiful.” Yuck. In general, descriptions of death, dying, and all that relates to it seemed to go on forever.

Most historical fiction gives more of a nod to the vernacular of the time. This book, not so much. Strange repetition of words and phrases that just didn’t work. I think the author was trying to be poetic, but instead it was annoying. In a couple of cases, I wondered if the audio narrator accidently said the same thing twice and it didn't get edited out.

Insta-love and unrealistic depictions of love didn’t help the story.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Slow!

Slow, how many times I nearly returned it.
Last 2 hrs were ok. keep listening.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • jhan
  • 05-25-18

A lovely story

Which of us hasn't wondered what happens to a body after the funeral director take it. This book begins in 1918, the war is still raging, the flu is yet to strike the world but it is getting ready to and three young girls and their parents are embarking on a new life in Philadelphia where the father is to work in a funeral parlor. The story progresses smoothly, and is read in parts by the girls as they grapple with life. It's not a long book and it's very thoughtful, almost unforgettable.