Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Book Review: The Last Year of the War

About the Book:

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943--aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

My Comments

Susan Meissner is one of my must-read authors.  While she writes historical fiction, she usually finds a way to bring the modern day into it.  In this story, Elise, a woman recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's heads to Los Angeles to visit a girlhood friend, before her disease "Agnes" takes her memories completely.  

The story flashes back to the years of WWII and shortly thereafter.  Elise and her family have been deported to an internment camp, where they are kept until arrangements can be made to send them back to Germany, where her parents were born.  While there, she meets a Japanese-American girl, Mariko, from whom she is separated when Elise's family is sent to German in the waning days of WWII.  

Of course the Germany to which they return is a bombed-out shell of the Germany her parents left all those years ago, and the bombing raids at the end of the war destroy even more.  Then comes the occupation, which is not all candy and roses.  Elise never feels at home in Germany and accepts a marriage proposal from a GI--a proposal they both know was made for the sole purpose of getting her back to the US.  We follow her as she returns to a US that is different from the one she left and to a lifestyle that is definitely not what she is used to.  Still, she manages to thrive. 

In some ways this is one of those books where everything just wraps up too neatly.  I liked Elise; she seemed real and ready to take advantage of opportunities presented with out coming across as a selfish person. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B+


  1. I am interested in this. It seems intriguing!

  2. Keep sharing wonderful content as always!


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