The Last Year Of The War by Susan MeissnerThe Last Year Of The War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year Of The War

bySusan Meissner

Hardcover | March 19, 2019

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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.
Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Fall of Marigolds, Secrets of a Charmed Life, Stars over Sunset Boulevard, A Bridge Across the Ocean, and As Bright as Heaven, among other novels.
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Title:The Last Year Of The WarFormat:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.27 × 6.36 × 1.33 inPublished:March 19, 2019Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451492153

ISBN - 13:9780451492159

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dive back in time to 1943 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.
Date published: 2019-03-18

Bookclub Guide

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner Questions for Discussion 1.  The Last Year of the War is a work of historical fiction, but the internment camp at Crystal City was a real place where families just like Elise Sontag’s were detained and then repatriated in prisoner exchanges. How do you feel about what happened during World War II to German Americans like Elise’s family? Was such an action justifiable in a time of war? Why or why not? 2.  What do you think it was like for Elise, going from milk shakes at the local diner in Davenport to living off bread crumbs to survive in Stuttgart after the war? What about her character do you think allowed her to cope with those changes? 3.  Was Elise’s father right to volunteer for Crystal City, knowing that by doing so he and his family might possibly be repatriated? 4.  Elise’s father said the only thing he could do to stand up against the Nazi regime was to make faulty fuses. Was he right? What would you have done? 5.  Elise seemed changed by the experience in the alley with the two Frenchmen. How do you think it changed her, and why? 6.  Elise, because of her German heritage, struggles in Chapter 22 to understand how the German military could have been so inhumanely cruel to the prisoners in the concentration camps. She says to the reader, “I was beginning to understand that it was a person’s choices that defined his or her identity and not the other way around.” Do you agree that our choices say more about who we are than anything else? How does a person’s nationality figure into his or her identity? 7.  What does it mean to you to be a patriot? What do you think it meant to Elise? She tells the reader in Chapter 23, “The land of my childhood mattered to me, maybe because it was where my life began. I felt a part of that land somehow, just as Papa’s heart was tied to the land of his birth. It was the land he loved, not so much the people, because people can change. People can be good and people can be monsters.” Does the land of your childhood matter to you? Why or why not? 8.  Has The Last Year of the War prompted you to consider the way in which you see people from other nations? 9.  Was Ralph a good friend to Elise? Do you think he had his own reasons for marrying her? Did you like him as a person? Why or why not? 10.  If you had been in Elise’s position, would you have married Ralph? Did she make a wise choice or a foolish one? 11.  Why do you think Elise wanted to return to America and stay with Hugh’s family, even though they were difficult in some ways? Do you think she felt her own family was broken somehow by their experience? Do you think she needed to be needed? 12.  What do you think were the reasons Mariko’s friendship had such an impact on Elise? Can you relate? Did you have a friend like this growing up? How are we shaped by our friendships when we’re young? 13.  Do you think Elise would have ended up being a different person if she hadn’t met Mariko? If so, how? 14.  Mariko says from her deathbed that because of her, she and Elise were lost to each other. She laments that had she made different choices, she and Elise could have stayed friends. Elise assures Mariko that they did remain friends. Did they? Of Mariko, Elise tells the reader, “She remained in my heart and I in hers, all these years.” What was Elise saying? Do you think it’s possible to retain a friendship when you are parted from that friend? 15.  Elise describes her Alzheimer’s as a sticky-fingered houseguest named Agnes who is stealing from her. What is Agnes taking from Elise? How does this predicament tie into the rest of the story?

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Last Year of the War“Meissner has created a quietly devastating story that shows how fear and hatred during World War II changed (and even ended) the lives of many innocent Americans.”—Kirkus Reviews“Powerful and at times chillingly contemporary, and it reminds us why we read historical fiction in the first place.”—Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment   “A beautifully poignant tale, The Last Year of the War explores the complexities of love, friendship, and the fleeting truths of identity. With vividly drawn characters and ever-elegant prose, Meissner highlights a dark, often-overlooked piece of American history. This timely novel will stay with the reader long after its thoughtful, heartwarming conclusion.”—Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday  “Highlighting a little-known story of World War II with heart-wrenching detail, this beautifully written novel will make you think about what it means to be American, as well as what—and who—determines our identity.”—BookBub“Vivid historical detail and elegant prose bolster this rewarding story of profound friendship, family, fear, and the pain that arose for American-born children of immigrant parents.”—Publishers Weekly"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."—BookReporter.com