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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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    Mar 2019, 400 pages

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Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)

Life long friendship
This novel is well written and well researched...Elsie & Mariko are two teenagers whose lives change forever when they are sent to an internment camp in Texas during WWII...the story is told through flashbacks...it focuses on a little known episode in American history ( at least to me ) of the internment and repatriation of German immigrants...well worth reading ...will engender great discussions for Book Groups...
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Sandra H. (St. Cloud, MN)

An America We Never Knew
Susan Meissner's story puts a human face on those who were caught up in the fear of "aliens" living in the US during WWII. Most of us are aware of our putting Japanese citizens in camps during the war but the fact that Germans who had immigrated to the US were also interned was news to me.

The novel centers on Elise Sontag and her family. Elise's father had been in the US for 19 years but never completed his application for citizenship. Thus he and his family are put into an internment camp. However, her father signed papers that stated he could be exchanged for a family of Americans caught in Germany never really believing that would happen.

The novel follows Elise and her reactions to life after she and her family are put in such a camp. She befriends a Mariko, young Japanese girl, who becomes her best friend so while this new life is difficult she adjust. Then her family is sent to war-torn Germany in exchange in an American family trapped there.

The novel shows a part of our history many of us did not know existed for some German families living in the In the United States and then let's us see life in war-torn Germany. I strongly recommend this novel. It would make a wonderful choice for a book group.
Claire M. (Wrentham, MA)

Prisoners of War
When the deeply felt friendship of teenage girlhood is challenged by the circumstances of global war, adult responsibilities to family and country become a crucible. Meissner skillfully guides the reader through the historical reality of internment and repatriation, highlighting the powerful interplay of family bonds and generational struggle for independent identity. Teenagers without autonomy convey the powerlessness of individuals caught in circumstances outside their control. The untold story of repatriation is brought to light against the backdrop of desperate yearning for connection and home. Meissner's delicate narrative guides the reader towards the much anticipated emotional reunion. The teenage quest of fulfilling one's life purpose is hitched to achieving the American dream. Book groups will be enlivened by a discussion of the dual story line and the question of what constitutes a life well-lived.
Susan P. (Mount Vernon, WA)

Things lost and found
A story that grabs your attention with its beginning sentence, "I've a thief to thank for finding the one person I need to see before I die." It is a hint of things lost and circumstances out of a young girl's control as she and her family become one of the families sent to a detention camp and then repatriated to Germany in exchange for American prisoners. The losses, or thefts of time, people and places, continue throughout her life as struggles with beginning Alzheimer's and racing against time to close the circle on a dear friend found and lost during that eventful last year of the War.
The beginning of the story draws the reader in and the story unfolds to unfortunately predictable conclusions. The end is a little too trite with its happily ever after tale. There are some surprising facts and a slightly different perspective compared to other WWII stories. This would be a good beach read in the summer.

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