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November 27, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

"I'm not sure who I should thank-or blame-for the chance to become an old woman. Though as a young girl, sixty-seven seemed much older than it actually was...I have watched the world grow up around me.  I was old when I was born, so it seems,  Was I ever really young?  I've been around long enough to know that progress is a relative term.  What is progress anyway?  A lot of damage has been done in the name of progress, hasn't it? But then I have to think, where would I be without progress?" (p1)

Amazon affiliate links are used on the site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

October 2019; Thomas Nelson; 978-0718075682
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical fiction
The Bright Unknown is a beautifully written book about a horrific subject with characters that you won't soon forget.  The story grabbed me from the first page and kept me interested until the last page.  Even though some of it was difficult to read, there was always a feeling of hope, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

The story begins in 1937 and Brighton is 14 years old.  She has lived in the Riverside Home for the Insane for her entire life.  Her mom was a resident when Brighton was born and since there was no one else to take care of her, she grew up sharing a room with her mother.  One of the nurses took care of her, taught her to read and read books to her when she was growing up but she was still basically a resident of the home even though there was nothing wrong with her.  Her mother was extremely depressed and non-verbal but Brighton loved her dearly and helped to take care of her.  When she was younger, she met a boy at the asylum who was a little bit older than her but like her was not insane.  He was put into the hospital because he was an albino and an embarrassment to his upper-class parents.  He didn't even have a name so Brighton named him Angel.  A new girl showed up one day.  Grace is a little older than Brighton but she was admitted to the hospital because her parents didn't approve of the boy she wanted to marry.  She tells Brighton and Angel about the outside world - things that they'd never seen or heard about and they all realize that they don't belong where they are and need to escape.  They have no money and very little understanding of how to handle being out in the world but they are determined not to remain where they are.  Will they be able to find peace and happiness in the world or will they miss their families and the other patients that they have learned to love and care about?  Will they be able to find happiness after all of the pain and suffering that they have endured and witnessed?

This isn't an easy read.  It's difficult to read about how women were treated at hospitals like this in the past - starved, lobotomized, untreated.  The author did her research and the situations in the book are representative of how mentally ill people were treated during this time period.  Even though the subject matter is dark - there is always a ray of hope that life will improve for Brighton, Angel, and Grace.  It's a story about love and friendship and forgiveness of those who have treated you badly.  Brighton had angels in her path that helped her survive the trauma of the hospital and her difficulties after she escapes.  She is a character that I find myself thinking about long after I finished this book.

This is the second beautifully written book that I've read by this author.  The first was The Solace of Water (review here.).  I am so impressed with her writing and her stories of love and redemption that I can't wait to read her next book.  The Bright Unknown will definitely be one of my top 10 books for 2019.

Buy The Bright Unknown at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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