About the Book
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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In My Opinion
More often than note, it’s the emotionally draining books that stick with me the most. The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is not a light-hearted, happy, feel-good story, but it is one that, days after I’ve finished reading, I find myself thinking about.
The majority of the first half of this book chronicles Brighton’s girlhood in an asylum for the mentally ill. Set in the late 1930s and early 40s, Younts’s examination of the treatment and misuse of the system is poignant, haunting, and, at times, reviling.
Yet, in the midst of a broken system, there are moments of goodness and light. Whether it’s the nurse who cares for Brighton like a mother or Brighton’s acceptance and friendship with Angel, the moments of good amidst the more prevalent discouragement, readers are giving glimpses of the hope for Brighton.
With the present juxtaposed with the past, I wanted the truth to be revealed, and Brighton to find a life of joy and light. And I was not disappointed.
I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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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