Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner


Release date: March 19, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Historical Fiction


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. 


Last year I fell in love with Meissner’s gorgeous writing style after reading As Bright As Heaven and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest book. I’m beginning to realize she has a knack for writing about specific historical topics that are not common and anytime I can learn something new while I’m reading I’m excited!

This follows Elise, an American girl whose parents are German immigrants and is told solely from her point of view and spans over the course of almost her entire life. I knew next to nothing about German Americans being sent to internment camps during WW2 and the way Meissner uncovered this piece of history for me was simultaneously heartbreaking and beautiful. The majority of the story takes place during the war but there are a few key chapters set in 2010 that added a certain gravitas to an already profound story.

This had the feel of an epic saga that explores so many themes and issues, from the unbreakable bonds of family to deep, true friendship and even some romance. I was wholeheartedly invested in Elise’s life and experienced such a wide variety of emotions throughout, the ending even made me teary eyed and I’m NOT a crier, definitely one that gave me all the feels. Highly recommended for HF fans!

The Last Year of the War in three words: Hopeful, Poignant and Affecting

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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