Updated: Mar 20, 2019
A deeply affecting and beautifully written historical fiction story of a family of German immigrants interned during WWII.
Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943. 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, she meets fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles. Their friendship empowers them both to believe there will be a future for them together in New York City after the war.
But soon the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany. Elise quickly comes face to face with the horrors of war. Separated from her friend, Elise struggles with what she should do and who she wants to be. The Last Year of the War highlights a small piece of the World War II story, where more than 11,000 German American and German Latin American residents and citizens were interned during WWII.
She had me at Agnes Finster. At that point I knew this book was going to be interesting, thought-provoking, and moving. And it did not disappoint. It’s is the story of how hatred and fear totally upended a family’s life.
This story was deeply affecting for me because it could easily have been my family in 1943. My grandfather, American born of immigrant parents, was publicly accused of being a spy for the Germans, despite having a son fighting in the war. He was investigated and cleared of any wrong doing, but what if they had decided to arrest him or intern his family?
Elise’s character is alive on the pages and her story alternates between 2010 and 1943, as she struggles with the loss of family and friends and everything she has known. This is a great piece of historical fiction that will resonant with many readers today as over 15,000 children were being held in U.S. detention camps in December of 2018.
Susan Meissner’s writing is beautiful and full of breathtaking detail. Meissner is a USA today best-selling author of historical fiction books. She is an author, speaker, and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her numerous novels include As Bright as Heaven (2018), Secrets of a Charmed Life (2015), and A Fall of Marigolds (2014). A California native, she attended point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.
Thanks to Susan Meissner, Netgalley and Berkley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Published March 19, 2019