About the Book
Book: The Bright Unknown
Author: Elizabeth Byler Younts
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Two young friends embark upon an epic journey across 1940s middle America in search of answers, a family, and a place to call home.
The only kind of life Brighton Turner understands is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of a rural Pennsylvania asylum. A nurse has thoughtfully educated and raised Brighton, but she has also kept vital information from her in order to keep her close. Brighton befriends a boy whom she calls Angel—he doesn’t know his name—and as the two of them learn more about what lies beyond the walls they call home, they fight for their release and eventually escape.
However, the world outside the only place they’ve ever known is not what they expect. They have no real names, no money, and no help—and they must rely upon the kindness of strangers as they walk and hitchhike from Pennsylvania to Michigan to find their last hope of a home.
This heartbreaking journey, narrated in gorgeous prose, explores what it means to belong—and to scour the universe with fresh eyes for the brightness within.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book, Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Solace of Water and the Promise of Sunrise series. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, her two daughters, and a small menagerie of well-loved pets.
More from Elizabeth
The Bright Unknown was born out of a seed of a true story that my husband’s grandmother, Gigi, shared with me. Gigi told me that when she was a young girl living in Oklahoma her mom had a friend who was a nurse. During one of her visits over coffee she would occasionally talk about her patients at the local asylum. One particular story really intrigued Gigi and even decades later she still remembered it. The story was about a patient who had a baby while at the hospital and while Gigi remembers nothing about the patient or the child, she knew that when she moved out of Oklahoma several years later that asylum-born girl was around eighteen and still living within the walls of that hospital along with her patient-mother.
That story stuck with me. This trapped girl and her mother wouldn’t let me go. I began to wonder over her and ask all sorts of unanswered questions. Slowly but surely my imagined story for her came to life. Layer after layer I learned about Brighton, my name for her. I also named two characters after Gigi, her first and middle, as an honor to her. This story was born from a memory but now these characters feel real and present in my life today and I hope you will journey with them in The Bright Unknown.
In the dark and dusty hallway of the asylum lives a mother and daughter. I felt shivers race down my arms as I began to read this story . It is hard to imagine what it was like long ago to be in a place where there was no where to go. Day after day you see your mother tortured by the demons in her mind. Brighton grows up in this place where only the forgotten and unwanted are. There is no way this story will not get into the crevices of your mind as you weep and applaud the girl that wants to go beyond the four walls of a hospital.
There are so many secrets buried between the cracks of the hospital that it is frightening. Brighton overhears something about her friend Angel that shakes her to the core. It was hard to read how Brighton was treated when she threatened to tell what was going on. A young girl tied to a chair and treated like one of the patients became a nightmare that was hard to wake up from.
I enjoyed reading about Angel and Grace. I think with them being there with Brighton it helped her to cope with her need for stability. It was interesting to go back and forth in time and learn who Nell was. Each chapter is intense and the book consumed me. It was dark at times but the author is able to shine hope and forgiveness between the pages. Brighton wants so bad to live outside the hospital but knows it may never happen. You can feel her desperation to live a normal life as she accepts that she is trapped in a world where people are dropped off and forgotten.
The power the hospital has over their patients in this story is unimaginable. What person thinks it is right to sterilize women to prevent pregnancy against their will? How can they justify medication to keep patients quiet and out of touch with reality? This hospital is an example of what happened to people long ago when they knew very little about mental health. Trapped in their bodies were people needing love and compassion, but instead received cold shoulders and uncaring attitudes.
I don't think I have read a story that is so realistic as this one. The author has a knack for weaving characters that tear at your heart while at the same time wanting to pray for them. I am impressed with how the story flows so easily from the past to present. Along the way secrets are revealed that I didn't expect. The faith element is not overwhelming but with the perfect blend of hope. It is easy to get so caught up in the story that everything around you becomes a blur. The selfishness by adults in this book is deplorable. They were more worried about what others would think instead of accepting their own child. I have heard about getting lost in the system, but this became more of a cover up.
There is a big significance in the meaning of names in this book. I know that I have never liked my name because people usually pronounce it wrong. What if you have always been called by a particular name only to find out it was not your given name? This is a big part of the story which I was fascinated by. A name is one's identity and it stays with you forever.
The journey the author takes us on is one I will never forget. I couldn't wait to see if Grace would ever be found or what happens to Angel. One decision make by different people change the lives of three very important characters in this story. I admire the author for the way she is able to take words and create a story that gives you hope, forgiveness and most of all peace.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
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