Historical Fiction

Book Review – The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My Opinion:

Susan Meissner has done it again! She has penned a beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking tale of friendship and war.

It is 1943 and fourteen-year-old Elise Sontag’s world is about to be turn upside down! She returns home from school one day and sees her father Otto Sontag being arrested and accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. As a result of this arrest Elise and her family are sent to an internment camp in Texas. Elise is scared and confused as to why this has happened to her and her family. All she wants is to just be a “normal teenager.” While at the camp Elise meets Mariko, a Japanese-American girl her age, and the two girls become fast friends. They vow to be friends forever, but due to circumstances beyond their control they lose touch with each other. Elise, now eight-one years old, wants nothing more than to find her friend and get the closure she desperately needs before it is too late.

I loved this book! The writing is exceptional and it is extremely well-researched. It is the perfect blend of fact and fiction. One of the many things I learned was that the Santa Anita race track was an assembly center that temporarily held Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I literally lived just a few miles down the street from Santa Anita and have even been to the race track on a few occasions. I immediately took to the internet to learn more about this, as I had no idea the race track I drove by nearly every day for years held this unfortunate piece of history!

At the center of this book is the friendship of Elise and Mariko. They have both had their lives ripped away from them and long to gain some normalcy. The friendship they forged was very touching and crossed barriers that others put into place. They saw each others’ hearts and the color of their skin was not relevant.

This book is so well written that I felt like I was sitting down for a cup of tea with my friend Elise while she opened up her heart to me and shared her life story. The good, the bad, and the ugly! I learned about her time in the U.S. just prior to her father being arrested, the unthinkable time she spent in the internment camp, the shocking deportation to her parents’ homeland Germany, and her quest to get back to the U.S. I grew quite fond of Elise and deeply admired her drive, attitude, and persistence. She is amazing!

I could go on and on about this book, but won’t. I beg you, just read it, you won’t be sorry!

*Thank you NetGalley, Berkley, and Susan Meissner for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.

Book Details:

My Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: None
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: 3/19/2019 (US), 7/3/2019 (UK)
Pages: 400 (eBook)

*Other Susan Meissner books I have reviewed: 

As Bright as Heaven
A Bridge Across the Ocean

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