From the 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.
Meissner gently explores a little-known aspect of American internment camps: things are hot and unpleasant, but there is plenty of food and friendship among the German and Japanese prisoners. Despite the hardships she endures, Elise remains optimistic and open to love, which comes from an unexpected place after the war. A heartbreaking, thought-provoking work of historical women’s fiction.
The best part of this novel, other than the historical revelations, is the way Elise names her disease Agnes, 'after a girl at my junior high school in Davenport—Agnes Finster—who was forever taking things that didn’t belong to her' ... Those Agnes descriptions are a bright exception to an otherwise bland writing style. Still, author Susan Meissner, a former journalist and award-winning veteran novelist, knows how to spin an engrossing plot peopled by complex human beings ... And beyond its literary strengths and flaws, The Last Year of the War is timely and important today, when thousands of would-be immigrants from Latin America are cruelly being held in detention centers or deported solely because of their nationality, just like the Sontag and Inoue families.
This novel provided an opportunity for me to learn about a new subject, and since I have read so many books set during WWII, I liked that some of it focused on the aftermath of war instead of only the war itself. However, the part that struck me the most in this heartwarming, coming-of-age story was the power of love in all its forms, the characters’ search for 'home' regardless of nationality, and the strength of a childhood friendship to help you through the difficult times.