Reader reviews and comments on The Last Year of the War, plus links to write your own review.

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The Last Year of the War

by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner X
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
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  • Published:
    Mar 2019, 400 pages


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There are currently 44 reader reviews for The Last Year of the War
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Lin Z. (Downers Grove, IL)

What I failed to know
I enjoyed this book on several levels. I especially like stories that trace a relationship during two separate time periods and brings them together. There is so much to learn from the relationship of Mariko and Elise. Two young girls are caught up in the war aboard which they have not paid much attention. As American born children of Japanese and German immigrants, their simply view is that they are Americans, and they know which "side" they are on. This is not as simple for their families.As the girls meet in an internment camp in Texas, they find friendship and solace in a world that excludes them and in which they no longer understand. As they are eventually separated,they try to maintain their friendship, but life seems to works against them. The story unfolds as these now elderly women attempt to reconnect before their lives end. I wondered if I would try to recapture such a friendship based on such a terrible time in my life. And I'm not sure. I was also amazed to learn of the repatriation of Japanese, German and Italian families while the war was still being fought! How devastating to be sent to what was actually a foreign country to these young people, during a war! I wondered how well this is generally known and think it is something that needs to be discussed so they will not be repeated.They faced unthinkable situations that they were not prepared for. I also thought as I read that this story has some parallels to the challenges our country now faces with immigration. Some look at immigrants with suspicion and as a threat. Some would like them to go back to their own countries. I think history can tell us of the effect this has on our culture and those families.
Jean N.

A Solid Five Star Book!
I have read many historical fiction books based on WWII. The Last Year of the War was excellent. It was told from a different perspective then other books that I've read, starting with two innocent families who were sent to an internment camp in Texas.The author was able to convey what that it was like for people to have freedom taken away and to be held against their will, through no fault of their own.The book was well researched and historically accurate. The story was captivating and really held my attention. The characters seemed so real. I really cared about both young girls, one from a German family and one from a Japanese family, and the friendship they forged beginning in the interment camp. Following the story through the years, it seemed more like a memoir than fiction.
The Last Year of the War was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I will highly recommend it to my friends.
Nancy L. (Denver, NC)

Realizing more every day that America wasn’t “great”. It baffles me how unreasonably cruel we can be when we don’t use our common sense. We (America!) incarcerated innocent people simply because of where they were born. These two teenagers tried to make the best of their lack of freedom by holding on to each other. Both girls were born in America, but their parents were German and Japanese during World War II and put into internment centers with everything taken from them. How dare us?
Linda V. (Independence, KY)

On so many levels
On the heels of having read The Lilac Girls, I thought I knew what to expect from The Last Year of the War...historical fiction. This novel is so much more. While capturing and educating me on the German internment camps, it brought forth comparison and consideration of present day detention facilities. It followed the path of young women approaching adolescence and all the confusion we have of our bodies and self worth. And then came full swing to how we women approach old age through past friendships. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Linda W. (Summit, NJ)

Who is Elise Sontag?
War can impose strange circumstances on people that can alter the rest of their life. The story of Elise Sontag and her family is riveting. A cascade of small events leads to the arrest of her German father and throws Elise into the role of enabler for her mother and younger brother. The family eventually ends up in an internment camp in Texas where she meets Mariko who is the same age as Elise and in the same class, but is Japanese American. They become friends but again events tear them apart when their families are sent back to their countries of origin.

Susan Meissner does a mesmerizing job of weaving historical events through the fictional life of a teenage girl raised in Iowa who is thrust into the vortex of WW2 . Her struggle with identity bounces around between economics, citizenship, family and job choice. Is she German? Is she smart? Is she pretty? I she independent? Is she creative? You have to read to the end to appreciate who she eventually becomes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its twists and turns of plot and character development. It is a wonderful read for a rainy afternoon.
Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)

Outstanding Read
This exceptional book was hard to put down. The enormity of WWII could not overshadow the dreams and disappointments of two young girls in an internment camp. Interestingly, one was Japanese and one was German. This story is about living out your young life with the same dreams and confusions despite the circumstances. WWII brought such heartache to so many people. The depth the author gives the reader puts one right in the middle of these desperate lives. I would recommend this book to anyone and look forward to reading more of Susan Meissner's books.
Power Reviewer
Becky H. (Chicago, IL)

A must read
Well-written and well-researched, this book is one that should not be missed. Mariko and Elise, both American citizens, meet at an internment camp for aliens suspected of being Nazi or Japanese sympathizers because their fathers have been wrongly accused. Although one is German and one Japanese, they forge a friendship across the divide.
The teens and their families are believable and fully developed. The atmosphere of the camp in hot, dusty Texas has a climate that reflects both the weather and the resentment and resignation of those interned. Both families are involuntarily "repatriated" to countries under siege during the final terrifying days of the war.
The interning of American citizens is clearly shown as is the fear the war wreaks upon ordinary citizens in a war zone. In light of the current debates on immigration, this book sheds light on an aspect most American never consider – what happens to ordinary people caught in untenable situations.
Book groups will find much to ponder here. Parent/child book groups might find a companion book in a YA book by Monica Hesse. THE WAR OUTSIDE covers the same camp and some of the same incidents in a manner more appropriate for middle graders.
5 of 5 stars
Rosemary C. (Golden, CO)

A Beautifully Written War Story
I was completely absorbed by this historically accurate novel about a young German American girl's experience during World War II and after. It explores issues of injustice, the hardships of war, and feelings about "place" with an engaging story and well-developed characters. History lovers will enjoy this book and I think it would be a great book club read.

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