Why this book?
More than 12,000 Philadelphia residents died when the Spanish Flu began global deaths in 1918. Although the virus had already wreaked havoc in New England, Philadelphia officials went ahead with plans for a scheduled parade designed to raise public funding for the Great War across the ocean. An estimated 200,000 people watched and cheered as soldiers, veterans, and workers involved in the war effort marched down Broad Street on Sept. 28, 1918. An article about the spectacle published that afternoon in The Evening Bulletin, began “This is a great day in Philadelphia.”
But another article in the same edition noted that a police officer had died from the flu and more than 100 people had recently tested positive for the virus. The parade was what we now would call a “super spreader event.” Within weeks, “the grippe,” as many called the disease had killed thousands and shut down the city.
Author Susan Meissner’s As Bright As Heaven follows the Bright family – mother, father, and three daughters – during the influenza and beyond. The mother and three daughters alternately describe the action, and I found myself eager to hear more of their individual stories. Imagining the characters in the book’s various Philadelphia settings enriched the read.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War comes a novel set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, telling 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…