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The Bright Unknown

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  292 ratings  ·  181 reviews
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
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by Thomas Nelson
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Average rating 4.45  · 
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Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: I didn't know when I stopped struggling, but at some point I did. I didn't feel the razor run across my scalp; I only felt the closeness of Nurse Wilma's hot and soft body that smelled of night-shift sweat. The stench made my stomach jerk and sputter, but there was nothing inside to come up.

Lorna was still chanting about the yellow canary and that the mine was safe. But I knew she was wrong. The mine wasn't safe and we were all going to die here. Panic filled me while the restrains
“All I knew of regular girls came from books. But my fictional friends Heidi, Pollyanna, Betsy, Anne, Sarah—none of them had regular lives either. So perhaps there were no regular girls anywhere.”

In evocative prose, Elizabeth Byler Younts draws us into the world of Brighton and Angel, a pair of Dickensian-type innocents who shine the light of kindness and courage in some very dark places.

Brighton and Angel meet while incarcerated in a mental institution as children, where their formative years
This new-to-me author has written a heart wrenchingly, moving story with a dual timeline. Set in the late 1920 to 1940's in Pennsylvania and the 1990's in Michigan it follows the story of Brighton aka Nell and Angel. Brighton is born in the Riverside Home for the Insane where her mother had been committed. For the next 18 years, she is mothered by one of the nurses. Her best friend is Angel an albino boy who was committed by his parents. This is the story of the atrocities they witnessed and ...more
Elizabeth Dragina

This wasn't really my "cup of tea". It was interesting idea, but there wasn't a lot of action. I felt bored out of my mind. *shrugs*

**FTC DISCLOSURE** I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Brokenness. Depression. Pain. Despair.

We all know these words well, but the lovely Elizabeth Byler Younts dives into the depths of these issues, creating a setting that brings out the stark reality of a psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. As I became invested in the characters lives I had to stop reading many times and take a deep breath. You feel the pain Brighton experiences & many of the subjects and feelings described are things I have seen at a much, much lower intensity.

While I feel
Karen Kay
I received this from for a review.

Brighton Turner has endured a rural Pennsylvania asylum which used less than humane methods to control its population. As an adult, she keeps her promise to herself and tells of the tragic events that happened to her and those she considered her family.

Out of the broken past is healing and redemption. Good story.

Heidi Chiavaroli
This was a an absolute gem. Authentic, gritty, and full of hope. Just my kind of book. Highly recommend!

From Endorsement:
As bold as it is beautiful, as haunting as it is full of hope, The Bright Unknown is a story that will latch onto the minds and hearts of readers, and not easily let go. With luscious language that gives birth to unforgettable characters, Younts is not afraid to explore the dark places for the sake of finding light. I could not put this novel down!
Becca-Rae Weidel
Forgive me because I don't believe I even have the words to do this novel justice. I finished a day ago and I'm still sitting in a book fog. There's so much that I loved but can't share to avoid spoilers, but this novel had me hook, line, and sinker from the very first chapter.

Although The Bright Unknown is marketed as historical romance, there is also an element of time-slip involved. The majority of the story is a look back on Brighton's upbringing in the asylum. The mystery surrounding her
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is a powerful, moving and heart breaking Christian historical tale. I am not ashamed to say that the tears fell as I read some of the truly horrifying scenes of great cruelty from those who were supposed to care for the most vulnerable.
The novel has two timelines – 1990 and 1937 moving forwards to 1941. It is told through the eyes of one woman born into the state asylum. The reader becomes completely entwined into the story as we witness the appalling
A. Harrison
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review of The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts: I went out on a limb getting this book, I passed it over once then saw that JustReads had it on tour and figured that maybe since I was seeing it everywhere I should try it out . . . I knew that it would be a hard book to read with everything that happened in asylums in history but WOW I didn’t expect it to be so very emotional.

The characters were so lifelike and their struggles so heartrending that I felt their every emotion with
Doris Vandruff
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brighton's mom was taken to the Riverside Home for the Insane. She was pregnant and unmarried. Brighton was born in the asylum and because her mom was a patient, she also could not leave. She lived in a world of being a patient when she was normal. She saw first hand the abuse and neglect of all the patients. A lot of the patients had things like psychosis, schizophrenia, and catatonia. However, a lot of them were there for no valid reason. Maybe they were retarded, albino, orphaned or ...more
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
The Bright Unknown shines a light on the reasons one was admitted to a mental institution in the 1930s and 1940s and the practices used to "treat" patients. The novel had me turning pages because I wanted to know how Brighton's story would end. I didn't love this novel as much as The Solace of Water, but it was an engaging story.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle." St. Francis

Exquisite prose softens the blows of this most unusual story; the story of one young life among so many, brought forth into a world of darkness, yet bestowed with a determination to carry the light. Meet Brighton Friedrich, whose struggles to live a normal life took place within the walls of an asylum for the insane, and whose friends consisted of those whom the world had intentionally forgotten.

Siri Mitchell
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow -- what a gorgeously written novel! I have not been so completely transported by a novel in a long time. I couldn't read fast enough to devour this story or slow enough to savor the lyrical prose. Younts courageously addresses the way we treat those we label ‘different’. She always amazes me with the brilliance of her prose and in this novel, she shines even brighter with a final twist to her story that was completely unexpected and so perfectly right. This story will linger in your heart ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This 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
The Bright Unknown is an enigma. The picture looks like a girl in a sweet dress with her teddy bear standing outside a large estate, serene even. I cannot imagine where this cover came from as nothing like this was in the book. The setting was an insane asylum where patients were not allowed outside, and there’s primarily misery inside. The girl on the cover had only worn hospital gowns all her life.

This story begins in 1990 with Nell receiving a package with a roll of film. When she was 16 (and
Carole Jarvis
Reviewed at The Power of Words:

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is a rare gem, a masterpiece of lyrical writing, rich characterization, sublime storytelling, emotion and hope. I was about to give up on ever finding a novel of this high quality in the Christian fiction genre. It’s not an easy read nor a fast one, but rather a compelling read that begs to be experienced. Kindness, caring, and innocence are contrasted with ignorance and greed. With a timeless
Nora St Laurent
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was hooked from the first line. “I’m not sure whom 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 is.”

This author does a brilliant job of taking readers to a place no one wants to go and/or even think about. This is an extraordinary novel that tugged at my heartstrings right from the start with it’s larger than life characters and their horrific situations. This is a moving story I don’t think I could
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is a story that needed to be told. It gives the reader an up close and personal look at what went on in mental hospitals in the last century, and also the traveling freak shows that exploited people that were different in that time period. This story starts back in t940s. The author has her own way of spinning a tale and it is beautiful.

The story is about Brighton, a young girl born and raised in the asylum that her mother was admitted to when she was pregnant, and raised in the asylum
Elizabeth Byler Younts brings a unique voice to Christian fiction. With hauntingly beautiful prose, she explores the ties of friendship, the power of love and forgiveness with gut-wrenching emotion.

Her story of two forgotten children, growing up behind the doors of an asylum in the 1930's will tug at the emotions. Their escape into the real world comes with many struggles, but freedom from the horrors of the asylum may take years to overcome.

It is a sign of a good author, when a reader cares
Susie Finkbeiner
Full review to come...
Fiction Aficionado
It’s daunting to sit here and try to put into words everything I experienced while reading this book. It’s a deeply thoughtful novel, and beautifully written, but at times I was so angry I didn’t know if I could keep reading. The stark reality—the inhumanity—of mental health “care” in generations past, not to mention the reasons some were subjected to such “care”, is painful knowledge to open yourself to, and that’s exactly what you will do when you read Brighton’s story. And yet, by the time I ...more
Kelly Bridgewater
What a fascinating novel! The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts was a wonderful read. I honestly couldn't put it down. The story read like a time-slip novel. I believe there are three different time periods the readers will travel to, but Younts has labeled each section, so it was easy to follow along. On the other hand, the characters were unique. I really enjoyed seeing the world through Brighton's eyes as she lived and explored the only world she ever knew. The asylum. I couldn't ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I was kind of disappointed with this one, but first it had nothing to do with the writing or even the characters, but I didn't connect with them the way I would've liked. I guess maybe going back an forth of past and present events happening. It is worth reading, but just not entirely to my liking.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking story of survival and friendship comes to life in author Elizabeth Byler Younts novel, The Bright Unknonw. Although Younts has written a fiction story, she brings to life the horrific circumstances of a variety of types of people, those who really need to be there and those that do not, living inside an insane asylum. It is a beautifully and powerfully written story that is both depressing and enlightening. Younts tackles a hard subject matter with beautiful efficiency. This ...more
Maureen Timerman
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A book that will make you shutter, and I found myself with tears, those poor people. There is a lot of truth in this read, and knowing that made it so much harder for me to make myself believe this is a fictional book.
The author does a wonderful job throughout the story, and once you pick the book up, it becomes very hard to put down. Although there is not an epilogue, the book does bring everything to a conclusion and we are up dated, and I was surprised!
Hard to read what happens here, but
Hallie Szott
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is historical fiction at its finest. Exquisite and heartbreaking and hopeful, it is one of those books that needs to be experienced.

Born into an asylum, Brighton Friedrich spends her growing-up years surrounded by mental patients, nurses and doctors, and a boy she called Angel. She longs to know the world beyond the asylum’s boundaries, yet is as trapped by its harsh realities as any patient. As the narrative alternates between her present and
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, well-written but melancholy tale that takes us deep into the halls of asylum life, told through the eyes of one who lived it. Fascinating, hard to read in parts, but ultimately satisfying.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another best book of the year for me, moving up into one of my best top ten. I was so pleasantly surprised by this awesome story, didn’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly was blown away by this little gem. Few books can bring me to tears, nor can they make me feel so deeply with emotion as this one did. I loved everything about this story, it has it all, love, loss, mystery, heartache, resilience, goodness, evil and then finally kindness from strangers. We switch between Brighton, aka ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book captured my attention from the very beginning. It is narrated by Brighton, a remarkable woman with an incredible past. Brighton was raised in an asylum during the 1930's. Her mother was pregnant with her when she was committed, and the nurse in charge of her mother's care deemed it best to keep the infant with her mentally ill mother. Indeed, Brighton has always been able to soothe her mother - even if she can't fully connect with her through the fog of her mental illness. And "Nursey" ...more
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Award-winning author Elizabeth Byler Younts writes historical fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. She is also the author of the Carol award-winning
“Of course, we don't say words like insane or mad in the progressive 1990s. We say mentally ill. Mad means something different now too. Words are veils and masks, and there's always something more on the other side of them than we want to believe.” 0 likes
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