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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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  • First Published:
    Mar 2019, 400 pages
    Apr 2020, 416 pages


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Kate Rock

Fabulous Read
Susan Meissner writes a brilliantly vivid piece of important and little known history. It combines friendship, love, family during a devastating times and the questions of identity and the important story of immigrant parents that is perfectly placed in that it will be relatable to so many of us no matter what era we were born. Beautiful, poignant and heartwarming. "All the feels!" Highly recommended read.
Power Reviewer
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

The Last Year of The War - LOVED this book
A friendship made in an internment camp during WWII that lasted only eighteen months, but bonds and memories that lasted a lifetime.

Elise and Mariko met during WWII while attending school in an internment camp for Japanese and German Americans.

We follow both girls through their eighteen months in the camp as well as after even though the friends never saw each other again until they were older adults. They tried to connect with each other, but they never were able to.

At this time in their lives, Elise was suffering from dementia, and she found out Mariko was dying from stage four breast cancer.

Even though Elise had trouble remembering things, she remembered enough to find Mariko, to get on a plane, and to find her before they both were no longer alive.

THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR is a marvelous history lesson and a testament to enduring friendship and learning lessons and making decisions.

The subject matter wasn't light, but it was wonderful learning more about this time in history. I actually wasn't aware of all that happened. It is very obvious that Ms. Meissner did extensive research and perfectly fit the facts into her book.

If you enjoy historical fiction and Ms. Meissner's books, you will want to make room on your bookshelf for THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR.

As all of her books, the beautiful flow of Ms. Meissner's writing and her attention to detail make the book a treat to read. 5/5

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
suzanne leopold

Touching Story & Emotional Journey
Elise Sontag is a German American teenager living in Iowa during World War 2. Her parents have lived in the US for twenty years but are not legal citizens. While the war in Europe is escalating, her father is arrested and charged with being a Nazi sympathizer. Rather than being separated, the entire family is interned at a government camp in Crystal City, Texas.

Life at the camp becomes bearable when Elise befriends Mariko Inoue, a Japanese American girl from California. They become close while spending all their free time together. Together they plan for a future in New York City with a fresh start and new careers. These plans get put on hold when Elise’s family is sent to back to Germany in a prisoner exchange.

The Last Year Of The War by Susan Meissner is an emotional journey of a young girl growing up during wartime. This story is touching as Elise makes one last effort to rekindle a friendship broken by time. I really enjoyed this novel.
Power Reviewer
Betty Taylor

Forever Friendships and Family
Susan Meissner’s newest book is about a German American teen girl who meets her best friend in an internment camp during World War II. We meet present day Elise Sontag Dove as an elderly lady who is battling Alzheimer’s. She is determined to find her old friend Japanese American Mariko Inoue. The story then flashes back to 1943 when in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor Elise’s father is labeled a Nazi sympathizer and her whole family is forced into an internment camp in Texas. Elise is alone and bored until she meets Mariko. After 18 months in the camp, the girls are suddenly torn apart as their parents are repatriated. While Elise was born in the US and doesn’t even speak the German language, her parents were German immigrants. Elise and her family are shipped off to Germany in the last year of the war where they come face to face with the struggle to survive alongside other Germans who are continuing to face food shortages, bombings, destruction and death. Through all this turmoil, Elise hangs on to the dreams she and Mariko had as 18-year-olds to eventually move to New York City together to pursue careers.

But while Elise and Mariko’s friendship is a big part of the story, it is not the primary storyline. That honor belongs to Elise who narrates the book and took me along on her journey as she sadly lost everything, as she painfully matured, and as she decisively took control of her life in an effort to regain what had been taken from her. I loved Elise as she was strong, independent, adaptable, level headed, and loyal.

This beautifully written story is about forever friendships, family bonds, adaptability, bravery, determination and even a little romance. But it also contains great historical information about the internment camps and the families forced into them and about the repatriation program, exchanging interned families for POWs held in Germany and Japan.

A unique tale of Internment Camps
Brief Summary: When Elise’s father, a German immigrant, is arrested for suspicions that he is a Nazi Sympathizer, she and her family are moved to an Internment camp in Texas. Here she meets Mariko, a Japanese-American teen, and the two form a unique friendship and plan for a better life after the war. When Elise’s family is sent back to Germany; she faces the realities of WWII head on. This is my second book by Susan Meissner and I was very excited to read it given this premise.

“How do you lose site of who you are when you are accused of something you are not?”

Highlights: Elise is a resilient “beyond her years wise” narrator and I loved seeing her grow up. Her narrative of the experience of being unjustly torn from the life she knew as an American teenager in Iowa is raw and so real. I was so interested in this book because the subject on internment camps is rarely found in historical fiction. Certainly, it is not a good part of American history but I found the glimpse of Elise’s experience fascinating. As much as I loved this novel, it did move slowly and I wasn’t totally sucked in until she went to the camp, then her story became a page turner; especially upon her return to war torn Germany. I also loved how the past and present storylines come together.

What makes this book unique?: The internment camp story premise of the experiences of German and Japanese Americans; this is not your ordinary WWII story or your typical narrator.

Explanation of Rating: 5/5 It’s such a unique story with an unforgettable heroine. When I wasn’t reading this I couldn’t get Elise out of my mind. The stigma and unjust treatment of the German and Japanese Americans will still resonate with minorities today.

Favorite Quotes: “Don’t lose site of who you are Elise. Don’t give in to anger and bitterness. But we did nothing wrong. Sometimes it’s not about right and wrong but now and later. Right now, we are having to put up with a difficult situation that we don’t deserve and it’s not right. But later, when the war is over, we’ll remember that we didn’t let it break us.” This is how they coped; true resilience.

Reese Witherspoon, if you are reading this it would be a great future book club pick! This is a must read for historical fiction fans, book clubs, and social justice enthusiasts.

Thank you to Berkley through BookBrowse for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review
Power Reviewer
Carol T

I couldn't put it down! An excellent rendering of a little known fact - German-American internment. Elise and Mariko are so real that they could live next door. I'm off to learn more. Thanks to Berkley and Read It Forward for the ARC.
Barbara G. (Dallas, GA)

The Last Year of the War
This is perhaps the best Historical Fiction book I have read. It tells the story of two young girls who, because of family nationalities, end up in an internment camp in Texas. It continues to follow their lives until they meet up decades later.
The writing in this selection is powerful and brings to life the characters and settings making the reader truly feel as if they were in the midst of the story.
It is clear that the author did a lot of research into this time period of the camps that is rarely written about or studied in The United States.

There are strong themes of family, friendship and loyalty throughout the book.
I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a great interesting and informative read.
Marcia C. (Jeffersonville, PA)

An Unnoticed Victim of War
Susan Meissner has written a heartfelt story about a German American teenager, whose search for her own identity and values took her through a German/Japanese internment camp In Texas during World War II; deportation to Germany during the last year of the War; a return back to the States after the War; and, finally, her own personal battle with Alzheimer's.

Elise Sontag was a normal 14-year-old girl when her father was arrested for being a German spy. Her family was uprooted from Davenport, Iowa and taken to a U. S. internment camp. After a year of camp restrictions and regulations, and bolstered by her friendship with Mariko Inoue, a Japanese internee in the camp, she begins to feel somewhat normal again. Then her family is forced to leave the US and go live in Germany, where the war is still being brutally waged.

This moving story tells of Elise's search for home, happiness and a sense of identity that keeps her true to herself. This is the story of a woman who stayed the course throughout countless obstacles. Susan Meissner's writing is gripping and emotional. This story is well worth reading and sharing with friends. There is much food for discussion here. It would be a great book club pick, especially in light of the internment camps once again being set up in Texas.

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