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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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Maribeth R. (Indianapolis, IN)

A Story from Yesterday; A Mirror of Today
Susan Meissner once again demonstrates why she is one of our finest creators of historical fiction with her beautifully crafted The Last Year of the War.

Told by Elise, now 80 and beset by "Agnes," her anthropomorphized title for Alzheimer's Disease, this narrator relates her tale from childhood to present during her quest to reconnect with her long-lost friend, Mariko. She allows us to peer into the life-changing events of her family's internment during WWII, and their repatriation to Germany. The parallels to present day immigration issues are unmistakable, and caused me to reflect upon the current plight of the Dreamers.

Meissner's talents include, but aren't limited to, her ability to make you actually feel you are on site with her characters. Perhaps they should be re-named CAREacters because when you encounter them, you will take them into your heart. Warning: when you begin this volume, ensure your next day or two are unencumbered. It is guaranteed you will not want to stop reading once you begin Meissner's tale of tragedy, hope, and reconciliation.
Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)

The Last Year of the War
This was a truly outstanding book about a little known series of events during WWll. I couldn't put it down, and read it in 3 days. I had no idea that American citizens of German heritage were interned at the same time as those of Japanese heritage. Nor did I know that some of these American citizens were "traded" for American citizens caught behind enemy lines. This excellent novel of historical fictions explains how and why that came to pass, and what happened to two families who were repatriated to their parents' country of origin. The war's relentless bombing resulted in cities that not only lacked sufficient food and services, they were reduced to rubble, and were unrecognizable. Kudos to the author for a great story following in depth research.
Judi R. (Jericho, NY)

Not to Be Missed
Thank you to BookBrowse for an ARC of this book. I LOVED it! We first meet Elise in 2010. She is experiencing the effects of Alzheimer's but she has one last task to bring closure to the events of the life she lived. The Last Year of the War is told in four parts through flashbacks. It is revealed from a mature perspective of Elise's younger life. We meet Elise as an ordinary school girl growing up in Iowa, then as an internee at Crystal City, later repatriated to Germany near the end of World War II and finally as she returns to the U.S. The thread is her friendship with Mariko, her best friend and fellow internee of Japanese descent. No spoilers here. We learn most of this at the beginning. I love when a book grabs me from page one, and better yet, never lets go. I first became aware of Crystal City from a non-fiction read a few years ago. Susan Meissner has brilliantly taken this dark period in America's history and made it accessible to the mainstream reader. It was a time when our government was so overcome with fear that it took it out on American citizens, simply because of the nations from which they descended. Fans of historical fiction are sure to love this exceptional novel and will add it to their favorites of the year.
Janine S. (Wyoming, MI)

Another Susan Meissner winner!
Another Susan Meissner winner. This is the third book I've read by Ms. Meissner and she has yet to disappoint me. This is a gripping and heartfelt story of friendship in spite of differences and courage in the face of prejudice. I simply could not put this book down because I had to know how the story would end. The little known fact that Germans and other nationalities besides Japanese were interned was surprising but that repatriation was was part of the process was saddening. While the book is based on historical facts, it also has parallels to today so it can be read on another level. I highly recommend this book.
Power Reviewer
Sandi W.

pleasantly surprised
This being my first read of a Susan Meissner book I have no past references for comparison. However, with that said, I found this book to be very enjoyable. I enjoyed the way she moved her characters back in time to tell their story. I was pleasantly surprised to see she used a town very familiar to me to base the life of one character's childhood. Everything she spoke about still exists and two spots, in particular, have recently been in the news. For me, that brought an extra layer to the novel.

My only problem with the story was I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have seen a few of the things that were bundled up for closure given a bit more time and detail.

Two elderly women, both with life-threatening illnesses, are brought back together for a final goodbye. After watching them grow up during WWI, both assigned to a detention camp by the United States and then sent back to their families homeland, they lost touch with each other. While following America born Elise, we see her return from a war-torn Germany and settle back into her life in America. Mariko, on the other hand, lived her life in Japan, until her later years of life, when she finally returned to America.

The story of not only war, of America's sad history of putting its own people into detention camps, but of the love and resilience of two young girls, as they navigated their lives as well as they could.
Kathleen B. (Las Vegas, NV)

Germany and Italy were a surprise
Elise was a typical 14 year old teenager in 1943 in Iowa. Then her father, a legal citizen for close to 20 yrs but originally from Germany, was arrested. The charges were suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an interment camp in Texas. Elisa meets Mariko, a Japanese American from Los Angeles, CA and they become friends. They talk of the day when they will be set free and if they can rise above prejudice and hate and reclaim there own destines. After 60 years of not seeing Mariko, Elise wants to see her before she succumbs to her Alzheimer's disease. Anymore and I have given away the whole book. I think this would be an excellent book club read.
Patti P. (Phoenix, AZ)

Mixed emotions
This one was a tough one for me to review. Not quite 4 stars, but definitely better than 3. I absolutely loved the budding friendship between the two girls (both residents of USA internment camps during WW II, one a German-American and one a Japanese-American), but I found there were sections of the book where I felt the author was trying too hard to give the reader "too much". Overall, it was a quick and enjoyable read, but I've also read quite a few historical fiction books during WWII that were better. Fun fact that I learned was about the fact that Our United States sordid past during the internment Years also included German Americans along with the Japanese - as this I did not know. Despite my mixed emotions, I am thoroughly grateful to the publisher to provide me this ARC - due out March 2019.
Susan P. (Boston, MA)

The Last Year of the War
A moving story about an American-born teenager with German-born parents during WWII. She and her family were interred during the war at a camp in Texas where she meets a American-born Japanese teenager also interred there. They become fast friends and are separated when both families are returned to their parents' native countries. The historical aspects are fascinating and heart-breaking. Many decades later, the German girl (having lived in the US for decades) searches for her friend. What happens in between in compelling and very readable. For anyone who enjoys good historical fiction -- especially one about friendship.

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