The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War

Large Print - 2019
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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.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2019.
Edition: Large print edition.
Copyright Date: ℗♭2019.
ISBN: 9781432863234
Characteristics: 679 pages ; 22 cm.


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Sep 26, 2019

A light read but a very good one. Really enjoyable.

Aug 03, 2019

Quoted from the book: Elise's father's reasoning for his and by extension Germany, "I did nothing because I wouldn't have been able to stop it!" Documentaries can be seen in the hundreds of citizens cheering and happily welcoming the invading forces of Germany - believing they now had a glorious future under the Nazis. Hitler could possibly have been stopped during the 1930's if only the people rose up to the brutal new and improved Leader of Germany. However, Pride, Greed and most harmful of all - Prejudice. Germany's need to avenge wrongs from the victorious Allies laid the foundation for Hitler's invasion and destruction of so many millions of citizens in so many countries. It was the Germans who initiated WWI as well as WWII.
My sympathy for the heroine lacked for me a true sadness. Elise was trapped between her love of the U.S.

Jul 25, 2019

The book doesn’t have a lot of depth and jumps around quite a bit, but it was still a good read!

May 31, 2019

wonderfully compelling historical read beautifully written

May 21, 2019

I love, love this book! It was a very engaging and heartwarming story, one of the absolute best I have read in a while and I read a lot of books. Never did I feel like I needed to skim through and move on with it to get to the end. I wanted to read every detail of Elise's difficult, and lonesome life. Good ending with some predictability laced throughout the story.

May 15, 2019

‘The Last Year of the War’ is an utterly compelling story that needed to be written and needs to be read.

I learned so much from ‘The Last Year of the War’. It wasn't until the "acknowledgements" that I learned most Americans were unaware of the interment of German and Italian Americans, nor that while Japanese interned were granted reparations there was "no governmental review of acknowledgement of the same violation of civil liberties regarding German Americans."

It makes me sad to think how scared my Italian and German grandparents, all of whom immigrated in the 1920's, must have been during that horrific time, to have celebrated & embraced their new country only to be held in contempt and blame.

It’s sad that today's young people are not learning this in schools and have no real concept of this history. Between revisionist history, bias in textbooks and social justice tearing down reminders of the past, they have no opportunity to know this valuable history.

Some profound quotes:
~*~ "Did you know"? I asked papa when we heard the first radio broadcasts about the camps after the surrender, after the airwaves were no longer controlled by Nazi officials. "Did you know the camps were like that?"

… "It didn't matter what I knew or didn't know," he finally said, his voice weighted with sadness.

…"How can it not have mattered?" I replied. "All those people, Papa! They did nothing wrong." I felt tears of anger and shame sliding down my face. "How can you say it doesn't matter what you knew or didn't know?"

"Because I could not stop it, Elise!" Tears were trickling down my father's face now too. "I could not stop what was happening. No one could! I couldn't stop it when we were in the States and I couldn't stop it here!" …

… I saw then, perhaps more clearly in that moment, how my father's hands were just stronger versions of my own hands. They were the same as any man his age. The same, the same, the same. The same as those of the innocent man in the death camp & the same as those of the Nazi soldier who'd raised his rifle and shot him dead. What made the three men different from one another was not their nationality or the shape of their hand or even the blood that flowed under the skin of their fingers. What made the 3 men different was how they chose to think.

We decide who and what we will love and who and what we will hate. We decide what we will do with the love and hate. Every day we decide. It was this that revealed who we were, not the color of our flesh or the shape of our eyes or the language we spoke.” ~*~

What a profound lesson that so many in our government, our country & our world need to RE-LEARN. I am hopeless that they will.

~*~ “Rina brings us tea as we talk & fill the gap of sixty-plus years. Surprisingly enough, I find that being with Mariko at age eighty-one is like being with her at fourteen. The years have not changed us all that much. I had been so certain that the girl I knew as Mariko was gone, and that I was so very different from the Elise Sontag who survived the war, but sitting with Mariko now I see that girl is still with me. We do not become different people as we age; we just add layers of experience onto who we already are. All that I was at fourteen I had brought me into the years that followed”.~*~

4 BIG stars

May 04, 2019

(Review Not on Blog)

The Last Year of the War is not a novel that is unique or one that will stick out among the genre. However, for me, Elise's story was one that I felt a lot for. First, with the beginning chapters with Elise and her dementia, I loved the way Meissner wrote this with compassion, realism and humour. Dealing with dementia with my own grandmother, it was these elements that made us get through each day of her not recognizing us anymore. As Elise tells us about her last year of the war, internment camps in particular. Internment camps have been one embarrassing part of North American history. I've read both fiction and nonfiction on the subject, but mostly on Japanese internment camps.

It was interesting to see the camps through the voice of an American-born German girl. Elise's parents are from Germany and have not yet applied for American citizenship. Elise is an American girl who does not even speak or understand German, unlike her older brother. This really hit me emotionally. I am Canadian by birth and Indian by background. While I look Indian, my family originated from India and I love my Indian culture, I also am very Canadian. I can speak (and write some) Punjabi but I know only the major details about my culture, and very rarely eat/make Indian food. If my country went to war with India, and I was sent there as a result of that was my ancestral home and I was now seen as an enemy to my country I would be heartbroken. And, then there is the idea of going to India and not fitting in as I am seen as enemy as I was born and am Canadian. I already feel like I don't fit in sometimes, but being judged just that, it would be really scary.

The latter part of the book was a bit different but I also enjoyed knowing how Elise's life progressed after the war. If you are looking for a strict Historical Fiction, you may not enjoy this one, but if you don't mind a bit of romance I would say try it!

Mar 10, 2019

As an Iowa girl and a Susan Meissner fan, this book was a must read for me and greatly anticipated. This departs in style from Meissner's previous work and follows a dual timeline for just one person, German-American Elise Sontag Dove. In 2010, her closest companion is Agnes (her nickname for Alzheimer's), but Elise is determined to track down her old friend Mariko. Meanwhile we learn of Elise's life before and after Mariko in a concurrent plot thread. Viewing WW II through the eyes of someone like Elsa is unsettling. You find a new empathy for those society may have labelled your enemy. A clear demonstration of the power of books and historical fiction especially. Fans of this book can view Crystal City and repatriation from the Japanese viewpoint in "The Diplomat's Daughter" by Karin Tanabe.

Mar 09, 2019

Okay, so this is one of my favorite historical fiction books to date! I loved this book! I was raving about it to my fellow book lovers long before I even know how it would end. Then after finishing, I loved it even more and reiterated to them that they HAVE to read it the day it is released!
This story is told from the perspective of Elise in alternating timelines. We start out by meeting Elise near the end years of her life and Alzheimer's is slowly taking her memories from her. Knowing that her past will soon be erased from her mind she sets out to find a childhood friend she hasn't seen since she was a teenager.
As the story unfolds we are taken back to Elise's childhood before the United States entered WWII. We learn about her family and friends and what lead to her and her family being in a WWII US Internment camp in Texas.
I expected the bulk of this book to be about the friendship between a German- American girl and a Japanese-American girl during war time. This story was about so much more than that. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the girls are then ripped apart and their friendship during that short time is what shapes the rest of Elise's life. It is an amazing story, and I found myself thinking about this book long after I closed the last page.
I have never read a historical fiction book told from the perspective of an American teenager (both girls were born in the US) living life in an internment camp. It was a part of the war I was aware of, but until now had never put myself inside to "experience" such a journey. I really appreciated the experience that is rarely talked about or even taught in public schools.
There are so many more parts of this book I am dying to discuss with anyone who will listen, but I hate giving away spoilers, so I will simply say READ IT! You will not be disappointed! A 5 star read!
Huge thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for allowing me an egalley to read and give my honest review.
Happy Reading!


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