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Publisher's Summary

A sparkling search for answers, family, and a place to call home.

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' gorgeous style, 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. 

Praise for The Bright Unknown:

“A beautifully woven story of a young woman’s journey to understanding that the past shapes us but does not define us, and that it is love that gives us the courage to live like we believe it. With prose that is luminous and lyrical, The Bright Unknown is a compelling read from the first page to the last.” (Susan Meissner) 

“With evocative prose and rich detail, Younts draws us into the humanity and hurt of a little examined chapter in American history. Her poignant details will break open your heart, but, with skillful beauty, she makes Brighton - and us - whole again in this wonderful story of hope, grace, and love.” (Katherine Reay)

“Elizabeth Byler Younts writes with heart, a poet’s pen, and courage. This is I knew when I read The Solace of Water. This was reinforced with my reading of her newest offering. Younts has given us a story which is at once powerful and compassionate, revealing and dignified, heartrending and lyric. Compelling and infused with hope of redemption, The Bright Unknown ushers readers on a journey of empathy. I, for one, am grateful to have read it.” (Susie Finkbeiner)

Stand-alone historical novel set in the 20th century.

Audiobook length: approximately 110K words. Includes discussion questions for book clubs.

©2019 Elizabeth Byler Younts (P)2019 Thomas Nelson

Critic Reviews

“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!” (Heidi Chiavaroli) 

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  • Joseph Byler
  • 05-12-2019


This story is so interesting it will keep you wanting to know what happens next! So many twists and turns and such creativity woven throughout! Bravo, Elizabeth! Your work is impressive and incredible. So many details. Brighton truly lives up to her name as she is a shining beam of hope and light within a heart wrenching story!

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