Notes from a Reading Journal: “As Bright as Heaven,” by Susan Meissner.

This is a story of the Bright family, but mostly involves mother Pauline, and her three daughters as they transition from rural Pennsylvania to Philadelphia to begin anew in their father’s uncle’s mortuary business. The setting for Part 1 is 1918 amongst the Spanish flu outbreak. Part 2 takes part in 1925. 

This book made me cry so many times, and that is unusual for me! The story involves Death, yes, but there is not just darkness in Death to be discussed. The book also covers hope, redemption, and building a life in the aftermath. 

This was my selection for January’s Book of the Month Club. I always enjoy exposure to new releases through BOTM club because I come to rely on them for true literary picks. Meissner is a writer’s writer, and her language is beautiful to read.   

Relationship/how you view the world questions to discuss with book club:

  1. How do you see the Grandmother’s choice in refusing Pauline and the girls to return home during the flu outbreak in Philadelphia?
  2. Would you have made the same choice as Evelyn did with Conrad and Sybil?
  3. If you were Evelyn, would you have made the disclosure about Alex to Ursula, or would you have taken that secret to your grave?
  4. If you were Maggie, would you have proceeded forward with Palmer, or waited for Jamie?
  5. Do you hold the same belief as Papa as far as one love of your life? Why/why not? 

Quotes I Collected in my Reading Journal:

·      Page 97: “Even now I sense the enemy is not who we think it is. My companion hovers kindly in the hellish corners in the funeral home. Like a valet, like a dance partner.”

·      Page 111: “I would leave off my sliver of a worry that she had begun to sense my companion’s shadow in the corners of our home. I don’t think Death has been watching her as it watches me, but who can say what that specter is truly up to?”

·      Page 301: “Might you marry again, Papa? Your Mama is the only woman I could ever love, the only woman I was ever meant to love.”