Thursday, May 9, 2019

Review - The Last Year of the War

Author:  Susan Meissner
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Publisher:   Berkley
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:  389 
Date of Publication:  March 19, 2019
My Rating:  5 Stars

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.


What an engrossing read! This story takes place near the end of World War II. Two teen girls meet in an unlikely place. Elise Sontag was German-American and Mariko Inoue was Japanese-American. The definitely came from different worlds and walks of life, but their families were “captured” and sent to an internment camp. After developing an intense bond, the girls are separated.

For a time they remained in contact with letters. However, Elise lost contact with Mariko when Elise and her family were forced back to Germany. The story takes on an intense edge as Elise experiences the many changes of living in difficult circumstances. Her normal American teen life is now a thing of the past. 

No doubt this sensitive story touched deeply on historical fact, and it delved deeply into Elise’s adjustment and growth. As she grew up and eventually began her own life, which was told in sad detail, she never stopped thinking of and looking for her dear friend.

I enjoyed this story of these two girls, and I especially liked Elise’s parents, particularly her father. Making a new and successful life for his wife and children had to be all but impossible. As the years progressed, decades, in fact, Elise never stopped looking for Mariko.

This book will definitely be one of my favorite historical fiction reads. Yes, it was difficult to read at times, but it was something I feel I needed. 

Many thanks to Berkley and to Edelweiss for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website: on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at

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