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Sep 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts
October 22 2019 by Thomas Nelson publishers
eGalley via publisher, thank you

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.

I had read the author's previous novel The Solace of Water so I was eager to read this next novel and The Bright Unknown did not disappoint. The setting of an insane asylum where Brighton grew up  during the 1940's was so vivid that I immediately wondered about how the author researched this material. This is a story that is deserving of the lauded phrases of masterfully told, immersive plot, unforgettable characters because all of this is true. It is so well told that it has a bit of a saga feel to it because Brighton is slowly learning all the layers of her past (and ancestors) as she is recounting it in this dual-setting narrative. The shift from the younger Brighton to the present day adult character allows the reader to become more and more invested in the character of Brighton even though in the long run we know Brighton must turn out ok since she is right there as a sixty-something lady at the beginning of the novel. And yet we also fall in love with the supporting characters such as childhood albino friend Angel and we need to keep reading to find out what happened to him, too.

This is a unique story that will sit with you for a while. It's nuance is dark and depressing however because of the major dilemma of being a child eventually aging out of an insane asylum where she did not belong in the first place. There is a bit of a suspenseful tone as well because we know that there is something underhanded going on that keeps Brighton in the asylum and where Brighton once thought she had allies she had none. Secrets and betrayals are finally laid open for a full redemption at the end that requires tissues, but it was so good! Ugly cry again.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.