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The Last Year of the War
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2019
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  Publishers Weekly Review

Meissner's propulsive latest (after As Bright as Heaven) is the story of a teenage German-American girl sent to an American internment camp near the end of WWII, where she's befriended by a Japanese-American girl. The friendship lasts only 18 months, because Elise Sontag; her brother, Max; and her German-born parents-torn first from their lives in Iowa and then from a Texas compound called Crystal City-are repatriated to Germany before the final bombings. The girls quickly lose touch, but at age 81, Elise remembers Mariko Inoue, who had been relocated to Crystal City from California with her siblings and Japanese parents, and eventually repatriated to Japan. The elderly Elise relives the depth of her brief friendship with Mariko ("I'm a different person for having known her"), submerging readers in those memories and in recollections of the terrifying 1945 carpet bombings in Germany and suffering heartbreaking losses during her teen years. Saved by marriage to a wealthy American who brings her back to the U.S., Elise nevertheless holds the memory of her friend close throughout the following decades and becomes determined to locate Mariko one last time. 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. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
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. <br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.
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