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As bright as heaven
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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.
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Pauline Bright encourages her husband to finally accept his uncle's offer to share in his Philadelphia mortuary business. Since the death of their youngest child, her grief has turned into a peculiar relationship with death, part sympathy, part curiosity, part heavy acceptance. Their three daughters adjust to city life. Evelyn attends a prestigious school that prepares her for a career in medicine, young Willa is fascinated by their big house, and middle child Maggie befriends their neighbors, the Sutcliffs. When Jamie Sutcliff's draft number comes up, the Brights think they are as close as they'll get to the troubles plaguing Europe. But it is 1918, and soon the Spanish flu has swept the city. On the hundredth anniversary of the pandemic, this novel infuses remembrances with emotion. Meissner (A Bridge across the Ocean, 2017) uncharacteristically sticks to one time period, but the narration by the four Bright girls adds depth. A good choice for book groups who read M. L. Stedman's A Light between the Oceans (2012), another novel set in the post-WWI era in which tragedy blurs moral lines.--Maguire, Susan Copyright 2018 Booklist
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