As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

  • Title:  As Bright As Heaven
  • Author:  Susan Meissner
  • Pages:  400
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  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 twelve thousand 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. Amidst 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. (publisher)

My take:  After suffering a heartbreaking loss, Thomas Bright decides his family should move from their small town to Philadelphia where he will join his uncle’s mortuary business. It will greatly improve their quality of life and the change will be good for them all.

The Bright family settles in nicely at Uncle Fred’s beautiful home. They like their neighbors and slowly become used to the large city. That said, they won’t remain untouched by tragedy for long. These are the harrowing days of WWI and the Spanish Influenza.  As Bright As Heaven is a dramatic and emotional novel that taught me a good deal about the epidemic as well as the life of an undertaker and his family. Susan Meissner conveyed a lot from that unique perspective alone.

I grew to care about the characters – it seemed no one was untouched by the War and/or the flu. Learning and feeling what transpired during important times in history is what I love about Historical Fiction. The Bright family were inspirational in their ability to keep looking for the good in life – doing the best they could with what life handed them. Susan Meissner’s novel is a must read for fans of the genre.


 

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

a-bridge-across-the-ocean-blog-tour-banner


  • the-bridge-across-the-ocean-319Title:  A Bridge Across the Ocean
  • Author:  Susan Meissner
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  March 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings. (publisher)

My take:  Annaliese was a German girl with hopes of being a ballet dancer. Those hopes were dashed when she unknowingly caught the eye of a Nazi official. After a few weeks of dinners out he convinced her (creepily) to marry him. Her life would never be the same.

Simone’s father and brother were murdered before her eyes. Somehow she followed directions her father had laid out for her to get to safety. It was a harrowing journey but it eventually led her to a new path in life. Annaliese and Simone met in England and sailed on the Queen Mary to the US along with hundreds of other war brides. Once again, things didn’t go as planned.

Brette is a young married woman in California. She’s been able to see things (think spirits) most people can’t for most of her life. After a tour of the Queen Mary (rumored to be haunted) she knows she needs to find answers to a few questions. Her day on the ship compels her to search for Simone and Annaliese. She also hopes to find a way to be comfortable with her ability.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is the story of three women faced with life-changing challenges. Two of their stories took place during WWII and one, Brette’s, is present day. Told from the three perspectives I felt the novel unfolded at a good pace and a few chapters in I had a tough time putting it down. It’s a tale about crossing bridges in life. Often what one finds on the other side is not as frightening as imagined. It’s a story of bravery, acceptance and forgiveness.


 

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner – Blog Tour


White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner: Book Cover

Summary:

Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

* * * * * *

My thoughts:

I found White Picket Fences to be a cautionary tale of what can happen to people when they don’t want to upset the status quo. People usually keep secrets because they don’t want to cause pain or unhappiness for themselves or others – but that can sometimes have the opposite effect.

Although I thought this was a quiet novel, it made me feel anything but quiet. The first half slowly unveiled a few secrets and then events occurred that set the plot in motion. I won’t reveal more except to say that the pace picked up and I read the second half of the book without stopping.

My favorite characters were the two gentlemen who told their stories to Tally and Chase. Not only did they share their Holocaust memories but they gave wise advice to the two teens that helped them make decisions regarding issues in their own lives.

Susan Meissner’s novel is a touching tale. I’m glad I read the book and recommend it to readers of Contemporary fiction and YA fiction. An interview with the author is included. White Picket Fences would be a good family book club selection.

You can get more information about White Picket Fences here.

Review copy provided by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group