The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

Of Angel And Grace

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 and barbaric treatment. State asylums were places of great cruelty. People were incarcerated into them and left, abandoned by the world and their families in the misguided belief that it was ‘best’ for them. The world was a cruel place – people were placed into these institutions for terrible reasons as disability was not understood but feared and seen as a stigma. Women and children had few rights and these could be overridden by domineering males in society. “See the person behind the frightened eyes. Not just the diagnosis.” The inmates were all people in need of love, care and attention. They did not deserve to be treated so abominably.

The reader is horrified by the conditions, conditions that were seen as acceptable by those in charge at the time. There was no compassion or love.

Surprisingly there were friendships that flourished. Love, care and compassion were found among the patients. Bonds and promises were made that would last a lifetime.

We need to be aware of the words that we speak and the actions that we use. Both can have the effect of life or death for others. “When you’re treated like a worthless piece of flesh, eventually you believe it.” We sadly, live up or down to the opinion of others of us.

Hope can bloom in the darkest of places. “Darkness vanished when light touched it.” We need just a crumb of hope to cling to. Even on the darkest night, we can still see the stars.

Sometimes we feel abandoned by everyone and even wonder if God exists for us. “I prayed to a God I was sure was out there somewhere.” God never leaves us. He sees our pain.

The asylum was a prison with walls. Sometimes we erect our own walls and stay within them to be safe but we are our own jailer. We need to demolish these walls and begin to live in the freedom that God desires for us. We may cling to what we know but there is a big wide world beyond our walls just waiting for us.

The Bright Unknown broke my heart. The fact that people were treated so barbarically and cruelly in the twentieth century in a civilised country is just horrific. To counter this, there was a love that ran throughout the novel that warmed my heart.

I want to leave you with my favourite and most powerful quote. It comes from a character who steps into a church for the first time and sees a statue of Jesus on the cross:

“I couldn’t help him from his captivity, but I wondered if he could help me from mine.”

I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.


Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Title: The Bright Unknown
Author: Elizabeth Byler Younts
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Literary Fiction
Release Date: October 22, 2019

This poignant and heartbreaking novel explores the power of resilience, the gift of friendship, and the divine beauty to be found in the big, bright world—if only we’re willing to look.

Pennsylvania, 1940s. The only life Brighton Friedrich has ever known is the one she has endured within the dreary walls of Riverside Home—the rural asylum where she was born. A nurse, Joann, has educated and raised Brighton, whose mother is a patient at the hospital. But Joann has also kept vital information from Brighton—secrets that if ever revealed would illuminate Brighton’s troubling past and the circumstances that confine her to Riverside. Brighton’s best friend is a boy she calls Angel, and as they grow up together and face the bleak future that awaits them, they determine to make a daring escape.

Nothing can prepare Brighton and Angel for life beyond Riverside’s walls. They have no legal identities, very little money, and only a few leads toward a safe place to land. As they struggle to survive in a world they’ve never seen before, they must rely on each other and the kindness of strangers—some of whom may prove more dangerous than the asylum they’ve fled.

Narrated in Elizabeth Byler Younts’s gorgeous style, The Bright Unknown is a sparkling search for answers, family, and a place to call home.

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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.

CONNECT WITH ELIZABETH: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

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One thought on “The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

  1. This book sounds very intriguing and like a very good page turner! I love the cover. I would love to read this book. I will be adding it to my TBR list. Thank you for sharing this book review.

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