The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War

Susan Meissner

When Elise's family is sent to an internment camp for being Nazi sympathizers, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar. She must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny.

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From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and As Bright as Heaven comes a novel about a German American teenager whose life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp during World War II.
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.

Advance Galley Reviews

A well done and interesting look into two women's lives during World War 2. It's definitely worth reading and I would definitely recommend it.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner takes readers back to 1943. Elise Sontag was living in Davenport, Iowa with her father, mother and little brother, Max when World War II began. Her parents were born in Germany, but they emigrated to the United States in the 1920s. Then one day the FBI come to their home and arrested her father stating he was a risk to national security since he is a German sympathizer and the family assets were frozen. To keep the family together, Otto Sontag requests that the family be sent to an internment camp. They arrive in Crystal City, Texas were everything they need is inside the camp which is surrounded by armed guards, a tall fence and barbed wire. The Japanese-Americans outnumber the other internees of German and Italian descent. Elise becomes friends with Mariko Inoue from Los Angeles. They have much in common and dream of the future when they can be free to live their lives. Having a friend makes life bearable at the camp. But then something unexpected happens and the two girls are separated. Learn what happens to Elise and Mariko in The Last Year of the War. The Last Year of the War has an interesting premise about families interned in a camp during World War II. I like that we get to experience it from a young girl’s perspective. Elise and Mariko were both born in the United States. They enjoy the latest music, going to the movies, chatting with their girlfriends and eating Twinkies. Suddenly, their lives are forever changed. They are taken away from their homes, their friends and extended family and thrust into a new world. They live in small apartments without showering facilities, but there are shops, vegetable gardens, different types of schools, a pool and other amenities. They have everything they need except the freedom to leave. I found it intriguing to learn the details of internment camps (information not included in history class). We get to see how people’s lives changed overnight and how they had no control over their future. I found The Last Year of the War to be well-written with developed characters. I did find the pace to be on the slow side. The story alternates between 2010 and the past. Just when you get involved in the past, we jump back to the present (and vice versa). It was a little disconcerting. I would then have to remember where we left off in the past and what had happened. When I finished the story, though, I could see why the author laid it out in this manner. The author captured the time period especially with her descriptions of the devastation in Germany. I can tell that she did her research for this novel (very evident). I especially appreciated the information she included at the end of the book (author’s note). I wish there had been more emotion in the story. That is the one thing it lacked. The Last Year of the War is a good book, but it is not my favorite by this author (Lady in Waiting and The Shape of Mercy are two of my favorites). I am giving The Last Year of the War 4 out of 5 stars. Those readers who love historical fiction will find The Last Year of the War to be a compelling novel. The Last Year of the War is a story of hope, friendship, promises and staying true to ourselves.

Susan Meissner's books are always absolutely beautifully written, and this one is no exception. I especially loved that "The Last Year of the War" showed a unique perspective on WWII. DId you know that German-Americans were also sent to the internment camps during WWII? Sure, most of the detainees were Japanese-Americans, but there were quite a few German-Americans. Did you also know that some of these detainees would be exchanged for American POWs held behind enemy lines? INSANE. I didn't know any of this until I read "The Last Year of the War." And literally this – the fact that I learned something – is one of the reasons why Susan Meissner is a historical fiction queen. ANYWAY, Elise Sontag is SUCH an amazing character. I can't imagine having grown up and being seen as "one of the enemy" during WWII AS A TEENAGER – and then having to move to an internment camp because that was easier than struggling in "the real world." Yet, Elise survived that – and became friends with Mariko, a teenaged Japanese-American detainee. Their strong friendship was such a delight to read – even when circumstances ended pulling them apart. In the end, this book made me laugh, cry, and get so angry that I wanted to throw something against a wall. It's a beautifully written, well-researched story – and sadly, filled with themes that are still quite relevant today. A highly, highly recommended read.

Fantastic read! I absolutely adore this author’s writing. I have enjoyed all of her books so far. Beautiful book. Highly recommend.

The Last Year of the War was so beautifully written. There are a lot of World War II stories being written right now, and this one stands out. It is an emotional story of two friends who meet in an internment camp in Texas. This is the story of the impact of a seemingly far away war on two teenage girls. I would highly recommend this book. Meissner is a beautiful storyteller.

The Last Year of the War was a moving story about family and the consequences of the war. I enjoyed the way that the characters’ lives were detailed during these terrible days. Elise is fourteen years old and living in Iowa in 1943 when her German born father is arrested under suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. Their family ends up living in an interment camp in Texas. This is where Elise meets another teenager her age, Mariko, a Japanese-American and her Japanese family. The characters are described in wonderful detail. The characters are enjoyable. The relationships portrayed of the families are beautiful. The story starts at the present time and then progresses through the difficult years when Elise and Mariko were teenagers. The memories and promises of their friendship helps carry Elise through the future years during and after the war.

With "As Bright as Heaven," Susan Meissner quickly became one of my favorite authors. WWII stories are always particularly interesting to me, and this book is no exception. It's so beautifully written, a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale about two girls who became best friends despite the circumstances of the war, families torn apart or interned simply for being from a country they were at war with. And then, the extraordinary and devastating separation and reunion between Elise and Mariko. A stunner of a story.

I received an ecopy of this book through in exchange for an honest review. This book blew me away right from the start. The main character is suffering from Alzheimer’s and just the way the author wrote about the disease was so inventive and really pulled you into the story right away. The real point of the novel is what she experienced during WW2 and her family’s stay in an interment camp. It seems like so many books are coming out these days based on WW2 but this one is definitely a different perspective. These were people who had been living in America for years and kids that were born in America and then forced to live in interment camps because the parents had immigrated from Germany or Japan. This different perspective was something I hadn’t read about much or even really knew much about so not only was this book entertaining but educational as well. ????? (5 out of 5) This was no doubt a five star read for me. Probably going to be in the top ten best books of 2019.

Susan Meissner presents a wonderful view of The Last Year of the War. Two girls put into a difficult situation and how they seem to accept what was handed to them. The details were bringing you into each part and rooting for them. Seems strange finding this story with today's world views. What a thoughful reminder to any reader, Thank You first to read for this ARC!

Another excellent book by Susan Meissner! I think this would make an excellent book club selection as the topics covered would make for some interesting discussions. Thank you to First to Read for an early copy of this book.

I never knew German-Americans were interned with the japanese during WW2. Elise is a typical American teenage girl with the typical teenage joys & problems UNTIL her family is packed up and sent from Iowa to a Texas internment camp. There she meets a japanese American teenage girl with similar hopes & dreams. This is a story of the war and its affects on the lives of those caught in the middle.

The Last Year of the War is an amazing story which taught me a bit about US history that I knew little or nothing about. I knew of the Japanese people being moved to internment camps during the war but was unaware that Germans were as well. Susan takes that bit of history and weaves a beautiful tale of two girls from different backgrounds, who become life-long friends while living in the camp. Circumstances pulled them in different directions but the friendship bond remained even though they didn't see or hear from each other for years. Life was hard for Elise and Mariko as they grew into womanhood, surviving the war the best way that they could. This is a wonderful story—a story that was kind of hard to read sometimes as their lives got hard. This tale drew me in from the very start as I fell in love with these two girls and as I watched their friendship and lives unfold.

I received this book through Penguin First to Reads for an honest review. I was thrilled to receive a copy of this book as WWII Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres. Elise Sontag is your everyday teen from Iowa. That changes the day the police come and arrest her Father for being a Nazi sympathizer. Although Elise and her younger brother are both US Citizens, her parents emigrated to the US twenty years ago from Germany. All of the sudden Elise’s carefree life is turned upside down. Her Mother doesn’t handle stress well and things get worse, way worse. When her Father has a chance to reunite the family by way of an internment camp, he immediately agrees. While in the camp, Elise meets a Japanese girl, Mariko, a terrible situation becomes bearable. Mariko is going to become a writer and they hold onto their dream of turning 18 and moving to NYC so Mariko can become a writer and Elise whatever she decides she wants to do. Things take an even bigger turn for the worse when both Mariko and Elise are both sent to their parents original country of birth. Mariko to Japan and Elise to war torn Germany. They promise to stay in touch but the mail is slow and Germany is still fighting a losing war. It’s definitely a huge change from this Iowan to end up right in the middle of a war torn Germany. I really enjoyed this book. Again, one of my favorite genres. Of course there are parts that are always just a bit unbelievable but I enjoyed it regardless. I highly recommend this book and am giving it 5 stars.

Wow, this was such an amazing book! Everything about it completely drew me in - the historical references, the characters, the plot line. The story is told from the point-of-view of the main character, Elise Sontag Dove. Eighty-one-year-old Elise is on her way to San Francisco in hopes of seeing her childhood friend, Mariko Inoue, one last time before Alzheimer’s erases all of her memories. Elise and Mariko met as teenagers when their families were at an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas for people of Japanese, German, and Italian descent during World War II. I thought the story would focus entirely on the girls’ friendship, but their heartwarming friendship is just a small part of the story. The book is actually about Elise’s life as a German American during WWII. In flashbacks, the reader learns how Elise and her family end up at the internment camp. I found this part of the book extremely interesting because there aren’t a lot of stories about the German Americans who were detained under Executive Order 9066. The reader also learns what Elise and her family went through when they were repatriated back to Germany while the war was still going on. In the US, the Sontags were viewed as Nazi sympathizers solely because of their German heritage so they were exchanged for Americans held as prisoners in Germany; however, in Germany, they were also ostracized and in constant fear because they had lived in America for so many years. After the war ends, the reader follows Elise’s journey back to the United States when she marries into the wealthy Dove family where she encounters a completely different set of problems. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to give anything away, but fans of historical fiction must read this book. You will not be disappointed, and you will be sad when it ends like I was. Five stars, all the way! Disclaimer: I received an advanced reading copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read program. All opinions are my own.

Susan Meisner's The Last Year of the War is an excellent work of historical fiction, a favorite genre of mine. While I have read much about the Japanese Internment and taught high school in a community with a large Japanese-American population, all of whom had family members who had endured this horrible experience or been interned themselves as children, I was unaware that German-American families were also interned during WWII. Reading about the experiences of Elise Sontag and her strong friendship with fellow internee Mariko Inoue was compelling and important, and much too timely while immigration issues dominate the news. This coming of age internment story, however, offers hope as it examines the power of friendship and family in troubled times. The Last Year of the War is the first of Susan Meisner's novels that I have read, but it definitely won't be my last. Thank you to Penguin's First to Read program for enabling me to read an ARC of this wonderful novel.

Another excellent read by Susan Meissner.

Sadly, such a relevant narrative today. I loved this book!

At age 81, Elise Dove traveled from her home in Los Angeles to San Francisco to see her old friend, Mariko who was dying of cancer. It had been over sixty years since they had seen each other, and this was their last chance to look back at their lives and experiences. Elise and Mariko became friends during World War II when they were elementary school students. Mariko’s family was of Japanese descent and lived in California. Elise’s family was of German descent and lived in Iowa. With little or no proof, the families were suspected of sympathizing/conspiring with the enemies the United States was fighting. Both families were displaced from their homes and transported to an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas and their lives were irrevocably changed. This well written and well researched novel focuses on the injustices perpetrated on thousands of citizens and immigrants who resided in the United States during World War II. While the horrific atrocities that were committed by the Nazis were far worse, it is still important to expose injustices that were committed here. Ms. Meissner’s characters are believable, the sense of place is very realistic, and the experiences they had are based on fact. This timely historical novel is definitely worth reading! Thank you to First to Read, Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and author Susan Meissner for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC of this historical novel.

The Last Year of the War appealed to me because of the genre, historical fiction is my most favorite genre to read and Meissner has done a superb job. We learn about the plight of the Germans living in America who didn't agree with what was happening in WW2. The author starts us off by giving us the present and then alternating in the past. We meet Elise who wants to reconnect with her Japanese friend, Mariko, whom she met while being interned during one of America's most shameful piece of history. We then go back in time to when they first met and more. Starting off their journey in America and rounded up into the detention camps that also housed the Japanese and other nationalities, the Sontags are ordered to repatriate back to Germany. The war is still going on and it isn't safe, of course, any information about the war and what was happening was purposely withheld from people in the camps. It's a shock for everyone when they return to Germany because the bombing is still going on and they are about to lose everything once again. This is a well-researched read and I think for those of us readers who have read a lot of WW2 fiction, it offers a different sort of account that is personalized. I've not read Meissner before and after looking at her profile page, it seems she does make all of her books long. So if you're expecting a quick read, you won't find it here. But I don't think you would get such a wonderful storyline with such in-depth research otherwise. A really good read.

Interesting and intense. Hard to put down. Good story flow and fascinating characters. Hard to believe in wartime these things happen. Would recommend! Liked the author's interpretation of these events. 5 stars!

I love Susan Meissner's books because they always teach me something new. In this case, I learn a lot about internment camps during World War II. Overall, I liked the main character, but this book did lack some emotion for me. It was a good read, but I have read better books from Susan Meissner.

This historical fiction novel sheds light on what it was like in America during WWII for those who were suspected of sympathizing with their homeland. Thousands of families were placed in camps, some being later sent “home” in exchange for American prisoners of war. The book not only shares what Elise and her family endured, but how she found friendship and love that would help her rebuild her life after the war ends. The story is well-written with characters that feel true to life. I know I will be thinking about this book for a long time, and I highly recommend it! Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read this book.

I loved this book! I have read and enjoyed many of Susan Meissner’s previous books and I think this is her beat yet! It tells of a family internment camp in Texas during WWII and examines its effects on the people who were legally living in the US (but not yet citizens) who were accused of being Nazi or Japanese sympathizers and the toll it took in their families (many were children born in the US and didn’t know anything else). The characters were very well developed and I think this book is timely and thought-provoking!

Admittedly, I have two of Susan Meissner's books sitting on my bookshelf, but had not gotten around to reading them. Thanks to First To Read giving me a timeline, I cracked into this one and immediately got the hype. I was swept up in the story of Elise and her early teenage friendship with Mariko. I love it when a historical fiction book can not only entertain me, but also teach me something new, and this was exactly that. A great read for WWII hist fic fans looking for something fresh and different!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by Susan Meissner that I didn’t enjoy! Her newest work is set during the World War II era. It’s a bit of a different look at the war time since it begins in the United States. Elise Sonntag is just on the verge of her teen years, when the war breaks out. Her parents immigrated from Germany before she was born, so life in the United States is all she’s ever known. Because of some accusations against her father, Elise and her family end up in an internment camp in Texas. While at the camp, she meets Mariko, a Japanese girl from California. They become close friends and make a promise to find each other after the war and go to New York to live their dreams. Unfortunately, the war, their families and other life events got in the way of their plans and they lost track of each other. Moving the story from past to present, readers discover each girls path and whether or not they will be reunited. Being a life-long Texan, I had no idea that there were internment camps in Texas during the years of the war. Learning something new from history is one of the things I love about historical fiction. Many thanks to Penguin’s First to Read for providing me with an advance copy to read and give my honest review.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. This was a unique take on World War 2. This story is told from the point of view of a woman looking back on her life. She was born in Iowa to German parents. He father was found guilty of helping Germany during the war and they were sent to an internment camp. They were then sent back to Germany during the war. She meets an American GI at the end of the war and they get married and he takes her back to America with him. She has to find what she wants to do with her life and how to make herself happy. This is a great read and one not to be missed.

Thanks to First to Read for an advance copy of this book. A very compelling story of lives changed by circumstances beyond their control. Friendships forged during trying times that endure for the rest of their lives. Family and love everlasting. A glimpse of the strength of the human spirit while losing all their material possessions and community status. Hard to put down once started. A realistic portrayal of life during the World War and the building of new lives afterwards. I would highly recommend for book clubs.

In a timely story of US internment camps, Meissner has crafted a moving novel about a young German-American girl, Elise Sontag, whose family was held in the Crystal City Texas camp with suspected Nazi and Japanese sympathizers, and deported to Germany at the end of the Second World War. It is in the camp that Elise meets Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American girl from Los Angeles and the friendship of a lifetime is forged. Mariko is writ large upon Elise's life, with her hopes of becoming a writer and critic, and her warm manner with Elise, who had just moved to the camp and started attending the camp school. Their friendship means everything to Elise. Only after each family is deported to their parents' country of origin, the girls fall out of touch. Mariko marries young and remains in Japan. Elise marries as well, eventually immigrating back to the US with her husband, settling in Los Angeles and making a life for herself and her two children. Decades later, widowed and suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, Elise searches for Mariko, feeling a compulsion to reconnect with her friend before she forgets even the early years of her life. With the disease stripping away so many of her recent memories, the memories of her early life and the friendship that left its mark on her becomes paramount in her mind. Locating Mariko in San Francisco, where she has settled as a widow with her daughter Rina, Elise eludes her family and carers to fly to San Francisco, in hopes of reconnecting with Mariko and fulfilling their childhood promise of finishing a story they were writing together. This novel is notable for dispelling the popular misconception that only Japanese-Americans were interned during WWII and that those interned just went back to their lives and livelihoods in the US after the war. From 1942 until 1945, The Crystal City Texas camp held Japanese, German and Italian Americans, and additionally Latin American Italians. Over 4700 people were interned in the camp, and those housed there were mainly family groups. (Families were usually kept together at this juncture in the US's internment camp history.) The majority of those in this camp were repatriated/deported to the head of household's country of origin to countries devastated by the war, and countries that they had chosen to leave long before WWII. One of the things I loved about this novel was that it allows the reader to see those interned in camps as people, and shows the effects of internment echo on long after they are released. While there were some aspects of the central character's inner voice that didn't fully resonate for me, overall I felt the novel was a fine historical fictional recounting of a shadowed area of US history.

5 stars from me too. I learned so much about the American internment camps, the people put in them, what they lost, the choices they were given and so much more. Not a period of history we should be proud of. History repeats itself time and time again. This author brings it to life . A great read!

The internment camps set up by the U.S. during the Second World War are not often the subject of historical fiction, and even more rare is a novel that takes its structure from the internment of German-Americans along with those of Japanese ancestry. Right from the start, author Susan Meissner has a strong premise that captures the reader's interest. Who knew, you might say as you begin the story, who knew that Germanic blood could see a family shipped off to a remote location. From that beginning comes a tale of friendship between two girls who find themselves torn from all they knew as children growing up in typical American surroundings. Elise and Mariko become firm friends in the short period of time that they are together, their relationship beset by bigotry and the inability of Mariko's father to accept the fact that his American-born daughter is too American for his taste. There is plenty of cultural conflict to propel the narrative, aided by the book's structure. The tale begins with Elise in the early stages of Alzheimer's, determined to relocate her dear friend after an absence of almost sixty years. The past and present intertwine as the reader discovers the reason for the rupture, the disruption created by deportation and personal struggles. The novel is a compelling read, the sort of book you can't put down readily. Thanks ever so much to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to discover a forgotten chapter in history.

5 stars for me. This is a beautiful story infused with hope, strength, and perseverance. It is the story of Elise Sontag, a first generation German girl growing up in the midwest. She was sent to an internment camp with her family during World War Two. I know there have been recent stories about Japanese internment camps, but I had not realized that people of both German and Italian descent were also sent to internment camps if the government determined they were a potential safety concern. Elise's father was determined to be such a risk. Additionally, families in these internment camps were sometimes deported back to their home country. While living at the internment camp in Texas (based on a real place), Elise met Mariko, a girl of Japanese descent, and they became close friends. This is a significant friendship for Elise and really plays into Elise's life decisions. While both the book's content and this slice of history contained a lot of hardship, this was really a gentle story of one girl's experience. I found this story very engaging and readable. Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of this book.

This is such a lovely book about friendship, family, love, and loss. Every emotion seems to be captured so well within these pages. It ultimately is a story about how much a person's life can change because of events beyond their control, and how friendship and love can help lead you through the difficult times. I have read stories about WWII internment camps before, but never from this perspective. This was such a wonderful read!

I received a ARC of this from Penguin First To Read Very good book written about two teenage girls, one German and one Japanese. It tells the story of the girls friendship and families during WWII. Their lives are changed forever when the United States sends them to internment camps.

I'm a great fan of Susan Meissner's books which always have great details about historical events. This one is no exception as it covers the internment camps not just for Japanese citizens in the U.S., but also for German citizens during WWII. The POV of Elise as a young girl in Iowa whose life is greatly affected by the internment camps and effects of the war as her life goes on. I really enjoyed this book.

I like when historical fiction brings to light events with which I am unfamiliar. That was certainly the case here with the internment and repatriation of German American families. The fact that Japanese families were brought from South and Central America to the US internment camps was new to me as well. I liked Elise, so it was easy to sympathize with her through her struggles and on her journey to self-discovery. I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction. Thank you First to Read for the early look at this book.

Such a beautiful story. "There had been those who walked beside me throughout my journey to where I now stood, and those who had joined me along the way, and those who were my companions only part of the time, just long enough to remind me what it was I was looking for and why." I really thought this was a very touching story about a subject that I know very little about. Besides knowing that these camps existed, I haven't read much about them. "The Last Year of the War" gave you a glimpse of what is was like being inside the fence of a U.S. internment camp, and the fates that lay ahead when families are repatriated back to their country. In 1943 Elise Sontag, a teenager at the time, was sent with her family, due to suspicions against her father being a Nazi sympathizer, to Crystal City. A well-known U.S. internment camp. While there, she befriends a Japanese American teenager named Mariko. As brief as their friendship is, Mariko becomes the driving force and inspiration of how Elise wants to eventually live her life. Unfortunately, the two are forced a part when both girls, although born in America, are returned to their families countries or origin. This story unfolds into a heart-wrenching beautiful tale of family, friendship, love, including the tragedies of war that plague so many undeserving victims. There are so many layers to this story first introducing us to Elise at age 81 and flashing back to the unjust treatment her and her family faced as German Americans during such calamitous time in history. Author Susan Meissner definitely did her homework and gave us a rich historical gripping tale that will stay with you long after finishing the last page. I was moved to tears by the end of this book and feel very honored to have been given the chance to read and review it. I think this book will do quite well once its out in the Spring and I also agree with others that it would make a fantastic movie. "She remained in my heart and I in hers, all these years."

I really enjoyed reading this book! I love historical fiction and this definitely fit the bill! I was not totally aware of how German-Americans were treated. This book will definitely be on my recommendation list when it is published.

Susan Meissner has become one of my favorite historical fiction writers. In her latest novel, The Last Year of the War, she has created endearing and realistic characters who mesh will the time period. I found myself feeling sorry for the entire family when they were transported to the internment camp in Texas, but I felt especially bad for Mr. Sontag after he had worked so hard to make his American dream come true. I’m looking forward to more from this author!

My third Meissner book and this one was the best. The story focuses on Elise, an American born girl whose parents emigrated from Germany to the US. Her parents never become citizens and once WWII starts, anyone who is not a citizen is suspect. We first meet Elise Dove, a woman in her 80's who has Alzheimers and wants to find her best friend Mariko, before it is too late. We follow young Elise to an internment camp (I had no clue Americans other than Japanese Americans were interred. And that many were sent back to their home country.) Elise meets Mariko, an American born Japanese girl. They become best friends. Then Elise is sent with her family back to Germany. Elise lives for over a year there, toward the end of the war, but bombings still occur - they live through the war. The time they are in Germany is very well written and interesting. Elise learns that Mariko is made to marry a young man in Japan and cannot communicate with Elise. Elise moves back to the US, gets married and we wind our way back to elderly Elise. Elise and Mariko find each other and both learn to fly. 5 stars

I liked The Last Year of the War. It is a different take on a genre that is so commonly written about. It is the story of Elise and Mariko who meet in an internment camp during World War II at the age of fifteen. They are both US born children of foreign parents. Most people know about the Japanese internment but did not know that Germans and Italians were also interned and that is because it was much less common. The story centers entirely around Elise. Right before the end of the war Elise and her family are sent back to Germany. The girls agree to return to the US when they are eighteen and live together in NYC. But that does not happen. The bulk of the story is told from 1943 to the 1960's but it is book-ended by their story in 2010. Elise wants to track down Mariko and discovers that she is living just half a state away. While it is a lovely story of friendship you feel almost like the friendship gets lost in the story of Elise's life. I would have wanted more about Mariko so that you really felt what they meant to each other instead of just the little bit you get.

Prejudice and discrimination are, sadly, parts of being human. Usually, the most we can do is be aware of our prejudices and do our best to avoid acting on them. Too often, things don’t work out that way, and this was the case with Americans of both Japanese and German descent during World War II. Thousands of American citizens were incarcerated and returned to lands they were often unfamiliar with, often during the worst part of the war for their destination. Such was the case with Elise Sontag, the main character in Meissner’s upcoming novel about love, loss, and war. Born in the US to immigrant parents, Elise is ripped from her idyllic homelife to reside first in a relocation camp then in war-torn Germany. Not one to make friends easily, she connects with a Nisei girl, Mariko. They are separated for over six decades before reconnecting, greatly affecting Elise’s outlook and her ability to love deeply. Meanwhile, Elise finds a way to return to the US, forming more relationships along the way. Meissner does a wonderful job with the characters. We get to know Elise in ways even she can only guess at and genuinely care what happens to her. We feel the shock with each one of her losses and smile when she triumphs. We ache for Mariko’s lack of choice and recognize her love for family. The recent debate about immigration alone makes this a timely story. But Elise’s Alzheimer’s and getting inside her head plus Mariko’s breast cancer make this truly a contemporary story, despite the mid-twentieth century setting for most of the story. This poignant story is enjoyable and truly a worthwhile read.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I requested this book and am so glad I was afforded the ability to read it. It is a book that speaks to a difficult time period not only in this country but across the world as well. It also speaks to different ideologies and the fertile minds we have as teenagers. I enjoyed it. It is about friendship lost and found and the choices we make in life. It is well researched and written and although it is based on history, it definitely doesn’t read as a history book at all. I would certainly recommend it.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is historical fiction based on the real stories of families who were in internment camps in the United States during World War II.Elise an American teenager with German parents and Mariko an American teenager with Japanese parents are the main characters in this story. The book depicts life through political issues, war, ideologies, disease and relationships with its many sorrows and joys. Susan Meissner has written another unique book with fascinating characters. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Penguin. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book.

Thank you to and Penguin House for the opportunity to read this book. I won't rehash the theme. The Sontag family IS placed in an American internment camp (concentration camp without the gas and ovens) because Elise's father is found to have some questionable personal belongings of his own father's. The Sontag parents were German born, their children Elise and Max were not. Her father was never a Nazi sympathizer. I was aware that Japanese citizens were forced out of their homes and into these camps. I did not know that German citizens were also placed in these camps nor did I know that they were "repatriated" during the war. I have read dozens of books about WWII (including Hotel At The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet) and not one has addressed the internment camps with the depth that Ms. Meissner has brought us. It is a page turner of the most horrific kind. I started the book the night after I returned home from a European trip that included Aushwitz and the old Jewish quarters, ghettoes and Synagogues in Krakow and Poland. My head is spinning. What kind of government deports people to a war zone? What father agrees to take his family to a war zone? Even if the prisoners in the American internment camps weren't privy to all of the news from the war front, they had to know they were better off in America, unless they were actual Nazi sympathizers. In that case, send them back. I feel Elise's pain. She is an American citizen. I cannot find any empathy for her parents or her brother. To me, Mariko is almost an after thought. The camps were heavily Japanese/Japanese American occupied. The two girls form a sweet friendship, but it is short lived. Elise does seem to be carried through the horrors by the promises she and Mariko have made to each other. We lose Mariko for most of the story after the Sontags leave Crystal City, The end of the book is rushed. It shows in the number of editorial and grammtical errors and in the speed with which it is brought to a close. Better editing earlier on would have left time for a richer story at the end. That said, if you gobble down hisorical fiction about WWII, I do recommend this book as well as The Tatoo Artist of Auschwitz.

I never seem to get enough of WWII historical fiction novels. The Last Year of The War does fall into this category but it is not typical for this genre. The story revolves around two young teenage girls who meet in a Interment Camp. Elise was born in the USA but her parents were German citizens who have lived and worked in the states for many years. Mariko was also born in the USA but her parents are Japanese. After Pearl Harbor, and when the US entered the war, German, Japanese and some Italian families were sent to these camps. They were considered possible enemies and there was also a need to protect then from people who did not want them in the USA and who could do then harm. Elise and Mariko became unlikely, but very close friends, while they lived at the camp. After a few months both families where repatriated and sent back to Germany and Japan. Most of the story is about Elise and the horrors of being sent into a country that she did not know, that was was being bombed by the United States and their allies, and that spoke a language she did not speak. Elise never forgot her dear friend Mariko and she missed her terribly. As she grew up and survived the war Mariko was never far from her thoughts and her desire to find her. Elise wanted to return home to the US and to try to find Mariko. Her escape and her very unorthodox marriage was her ticket out of Germany. The book started out with Elise being an elderly woman who is reflecting and reminiscing about her childhood friend but most of this very interesting story is a reflection of Elise’s memories of her life and growing into an adult. I enjoyed her story and was totally absorbed while reading. The experiences in the Interment camp and living as a German in the war was what I found interesting and eye opening. Elise’s quest to find Mariko is bittersweet. I would recommend The Last Year of the War to anyone who enjoys reading WWII historical fiction.

I loved this novel! It took us through the lives of two teenaged girls who were placed in internment camps during World War II. We were able to get a glimpse of their lives before their placement in the camp as well as their life after the camp and then after the war.

This is the second Susan Meissner novel I’ve had the privilege to read this year and it has made a devoted fan of me. It’s an epic WWII story from an angle you typically don’t see, the German-American side. Elisa Sontag, born and raised in the United States, is forced to live through an internment camp where she finds a connection with another prisoner, who will guide Elise through her life choices when she is sent back to Germany and beyond. It’s not JUST a coming-of-age-in-a-wartime story!There is an immense draw that will have you reading way past your bedtime and have you crying in sadness, happiness and all the feelings in between.

The Last Year of the War is everything I love about World War II fiction books, and historical fiction in general. It's moving, poignant, and it taught me about a subject I had little knowledge of before reading it. In the US, it seems we have all but erased internment camps from our history. I had never learned about the Japanese internment camps until I read Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet about a year or two ago. Until I read this book, I didn't realize that German Americans were subjected to the same treatment. Though the US internment camps were nowhere near as horrific as the atrocities committed by Hitler, we still imprisoned innocent American citizens and legal residents simply because of their heritage, and in some cases repatriated them against their will. It's so important to learn about history, even the bad parts, and this book does a wonderful job of bringing World War II in America's investment camps, and later in war-torn Germany, to life. The hardships and injustices are clearly illustrated, but so are the lifetime bonds created by surviving awful situations together. Elise and Mariko's friendship, spanning decades even after they lost touch, was heartwarming to read, as was Elise's relationship with her family and her husband's family. Though Elise is a fictional character, her experiences felt real. I loved this book. The Last Year of the War is an important story, well worth reading, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I am always intrigued by books about some aspect of WW11. It’s difficult, though, to find an interesting, well written book that provides a different perspective or one that presents a story yet untold. I have read several books about the interment of Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor but I never considered the same treatment of Germans. The camps were miles away in their humanity from the concentration camps in Germany but still deprived many people of their freedom. I also never realized that many internees were swapped for Americans trapped inside Germany. I learned much reading this book. But aside from a story of WWII it’s a story of love; a life long love of two friends, one Japanese, one German who spent just a short period of time together, but a crucial time in their lives. It’s also a story of finding love when so much had been lost. I loved this book

I enjoyed this book, the girls' friendship forged during a harsh environment of an internment camp, but Elsie's struggle to hold onto her memories, most importantly of her friend, Mariko, were inspiring and sad due to her encroaching disease.

This has to be one of my favorite books that I’ve read all year. I loved the different viewpoint it gave of World War II and how it opened my eyes to a part of the war that I did not know much about before. I knew about the camps that were on American soil but never read anything on the subject before. I enjoyed reading Elise’s story and how she grew on her journey from America to Germany and back again. I liked reading a story from a German civilian’s point of view and how life would have been for her then. I really could not put this one down. Once I started I didn’t want to stop rooting for Elise. I’d be interested for more of Mariko’s story and how she survived the war but even if there isn’t anymore to this story, I’m one hundred percent putting this author on my list for more books to read. I’ve also preordered the book because I know I will think of it after my rental is up.

I love how this historical fiction book explored the topic of interment camps in World War 2 as it's something you don't see very often in the genre. To be quite honest it's basically a "let's just pretend it didn't happen" type subject here in the United States. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I don't ever remember talking about it in school. So I'm glad this author decided this was a story worth telling. It's 1943 and fourteen year old Elise Sontag is living in Iowa with her parents and brother. Even though her German born father has been a legal resident in the United States for two decades, he is still arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to live at an interment camp in Texas where Elise soon meets Mariko Inoue, a Japanese teen who has also been sent to live at the camp along with her family. The two strike up a friendship but as a brutal war rages on, things will never be the same. When I first started reading the book I thought the girls' friendship would be the main focus. While it was a key part of the story, for me the real strength of the book was Elise and her life story. She brought an interesting perspective as someone who has lived her whole life as an American and yet she and her family were treated like the enemy and eventually sent to live in Germany. When the story moved to Germany it brought with it even more tension as you knew from history the war was coming to a close but yet was still bringing destruction. I found this to be a really compelling historical fiction read. It's one of those good ones in which it holds your interest but you also learn a thing or two. The only criticism I have is I expected to feel something more when reading. I thought there was so much buildup with the friendship between the two girls and by the time the story caught up to the present day, it just felt lackluster and almost rushed. In general, while I certainly had enough interest in Elise to want to keep reading, I just never felt a real emotional connection to her. I might be in the minority with that opinion though. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

Two friends, one German the other Japanese, become friends in a Texas internment camp during WWII. While the war eventually separates them, their friendship lives on in their hearts for forever. Such a beautiful, powerful, well written story and one of the best books I read all year!


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