About the Book
Book Title: 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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This is one of those story that just kind of grabs you, right from the beginning. I wasn’t quite sure about it….the story line is well, it’s rather unusual. A bit frightening in it’s strangeness, really. I have a wild imagination, and when I begin to imagine what it must have been like, really, to be in the shoes of Brighton, well, I am feeling rather terrified.
So. I guess I didn’t really want to go there.
And yet, I knew I must. I’ve read some other books by this author, and was so touched by the last one, Solace of Water, that I knew I just had to read this one.
What makes this story even a little more special is this– I had the privilege of meeting the author, Elizabeth, and making her acquaintance, back in August at the Fiction Reader’s Summit in Michigan. It was so neat to get to know her a little bit, and I’m honored to have had that opportunity.
But… back to the story.
Brighton is a girl, trapped, imprisoned, if you will. Her home, if you could even call it that, is found in a place where only insane women live, and it’s the only home, and the only life she’s ever known. Her mother- a mother that doesn’t even know her because she’s mad. Some of the asylum employees, including Nursey, are the only links to the outside world she’s known. And her friend Angel, an albino, who lives next door in the children’s ward, is also banned from the outside world. Their friendship, bond, sheer determination, is all that’s kept them sane and alive.
And then, Brighton discovers her entire life has been based on a lie.
What is real. What is imagined.
What is life really all about?
So many questions are raised, I was kept reading, wanting to know answers.
One thing that saved me, as a reader, right from the beginning is the fact that the first page of the book begins in 1990, from a place in life where Brighton, or Nell, as she was then called, has a life that is so much better, so very different from her childhood. She was married, had children, and lived a normal life for so much of her life that most people around her were completely unaware of the traumatic days of her youth. Yes, this is what I held on to as I read the horrors she was subjected to as a young girl, this is what kept me reading, desperately, if you will, to discover what she found, how she was able to escape that awful prison that had seemed so impossible to leave behind.
Ms. Younts so clearly paints for us the story of how many might have lived trapped behind the walls of an insane asylum. The tragic events that took place so many years ago, the way mental illnesses were dealt with and misunderstood. And even more sadly, the way that some families dealt with unacceptable behavior–yes, by placing their family members in a place like that with no hope for escape. Everything in me wants to cry out at the awfulness of this.
The details of this story make it so beautiful in the midst of all the pain. It is a beautifully woven story, so many layers, so many hints of things…when you reach the end, you will close this book, but I can promise you, you will not forget it.
I am still mulling, still pondering, over this story, so don’t be surprised if I keep adding to or changing this review. It’s been one that I found hard to write out, difficult to really share my thoughts about it.
Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review, and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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.
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