As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
This book. Man, it was so good. Another “Book of the Month” pick. And it was timely too! Set during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, it fits nicely during this time of flu crisis.
I’m not going to lie, I knew very little about the Spanish Flu itself. I knew it was a devastating epidemic, and I knew that it happened in the midst of WWI. That’s about it. This book puts a human face on the sickness, and also the randomness of it as well. It also gave me a chance to learn more about the sickness itself, and tell people about it. A co-worker had mentioned the Spanish Flu when talking about this year’s problem, and I could provide all the background on it. I felt so smart!
So, this book follows the Bright family from Quakertown to Philadelphia. The family of five is grieving over the loss of their youngest child, and believe a change of pace could be good. The husband’s Uncle runs a funeral home in the city, and they family relocates there to try and pick up the pieces. The story follows the four women of the family. Pauline (the mother) and her three daughters (Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa) ground the story. We get glimpses into the men in their lives including husbands, uncles, neighbors, friends, and potential loves. Everything changes when the city is hit with the worst pandemic since the plague. People die by the hundreds every day, and the funeral home is overrun with bodies. The girls lose loved ones, neighbors, and family members to the disease that doesn’t discriminate. Admist all the horror, there is hope when Maggie finds a baby living in an apartment with it’s mother and sister apparently dead from the flu. The family takes the baby in and vows to raise it. This comes with a whole other set of complications as the years go by. The book then jumps ahead to five years after the disease, and the reader gets a sense of how life has changed for everyone.
I loved this book so much. I finished it in less than two days it was so addicting. I’ve already recommended it to several people. I believe it comes out on Tuesday 2/6, so I highly suggest you check it out of you like historical fiction, and love when it’s based in a real situation.