Review of As Bright As Heaven

I picked As Bright As Heaven for my January BOTM pick. I started this figuring that I'd like it just fine and ended up loving it.

I loved the historical context: WWI and and the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. I'm not as familiar with WWI stories (especially when compared to how many WWII stories I've read), and knew only basic facts about the Spanish flu crisis. Meissner drew those two events together in a very natural way that was easy to read.

I loved the mother-daughters narration: the story is told through alternating perspectives among the mother, Pauline, and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa. Each character had a distinct personality that felt genuine rather than contrived. I grew to appreciate each woman's virtues and flaws, and I loved seeing the events of the story through differing lenses.

The end came together more tidily than I expected, and while sometimes that can feel disingenuous to a story, I welcomed the settled conclusions. Sure, often life doesn't come together smoothly, but sometimes it does. And I liked that the Brights' stories came together in a way that didn't feel like selling out.

Have you read As Bright As Heaven? Or any other books of Susan Meissner's?


  1. I wrote a comment for this post before but I don't know what happened to it. It's out in space somewhere.
    One of my twins picked out a book on disasters at his school book fair. It sounds like a huge downer but is actually very interesting. The Spanish Flu is in it and that made me look forward to this book.
    I enjoyed the middle part the most when the flu was most active. I agree with you calling the ending tidy. I would have liked the character of Conrad to either be developed more or left out altogether. It seemed like he snuck in there just to leave Evie with someone to be with at the end, but I would have been OK with her just continuing to work.
    Spoiler: I did not expect the major death to occur and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried about it.
    All in all, I really liked it.

    1. Totally agree about Conrad. The way Meissner left it, he felt like a placeholder so that everyone had a happy ending. I wanted either more or none. I was super shocked by the major death too. Overally I was more emotional about the whole story than I expected to be.


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