Carol (Reading Ladies)'s Reviews > The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, netgalley-and-other-arcs

Thanks #NetGalley and #BerkleyPublishing for a free copy of #TheLastYearoftheWar in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Last Year of the War is told from a unique perspective, and is a heartfelt story about two typical teenage girls in America whose parents are immigrants from Germany and Japan. When WW11 breaks out, the families are sent to an internment camp in Texas and from there repatriated back to their home countries. The girls, Elise and Mariko, meet at the camp and in a short time become best friends. The cruelties of war separate them, cause great hardships for their families, and threaten their friendship.

Susan Meissner, author of As Bright as Heaven, offers her readers solid, well written stories, and The Last Year of the War follows in this tradition. The writing style in this story is similar to narrative non fiction. In fact, I stopped reading at one point to check the author's note to see if this was a story of a real person. Historical fiction fans will be thrilled with this well researched, fictionalized story that includes an abundance of historical facts and vivid, detailed descriptions.

In addition to the historical setting and events, the story includes thoughtful themes of family, friendship, loyalty, bravery, determination, sacrifice, commitment, and the cruelties of war. Especially poignant for me, is the story of Elise's father and his ongoing and determined struggle to do the right thing for his family and to make the best decisions to keep them safe. Who could have predicted the dire and heart breaking outcomes to his best intentions. I think this resonates with every parent....we hope we're making the right decisions for our family but only the future reveals the truth.

Elise is our feisty and independent main character and we follow her life from young girl to her senior adult years. We learn how she survives the last year of the war and holds tight to dreams for a bright future. She becomes real to us as we root for her and feels like a friend by story's end.

Issues of war, immigration, racism, deportation, and wrongful treatment are prevalent in the story and we are aware of the author's viewpoints as the story unfolds. Favorite quote: "We decide who and what we will love and who and what we will hate, We decide what we will do with the love and hate. Every day we decide. It was this that revealed who we were, not the color of our flesh or the shape of our eyes or the language we spoke."

Sometimes it's interesting when girls in the 40s reflect the thinking of girls in 2018. There is one instance in the story of this when the young girls decide that the heroine in their pretend story doesn't need to be rescued by anyone....she can rescue herself. Even though the girls are able to articulate this idea, they find themselves in some situations throughout their actual lives where they didn't rescue themselves. This would be an interesting book club discussion!

The Last Year of the War is highly recommended for fans of Susan Meissner's work, for readers who appreciate well written historical fiction, and for those who enjoy a compelling story of a strong and independent girl. It's also a book that would be suitable for YA readers. In addition, I think this would make an excellent selection for book club because of many discussion possibilities. For readers who are concerned about reading stories that include the horrors of WW11, I can reassure you that this is a mild read. I hope you'll pick it up when it releases in March and that you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Pub Date: March 19, 2019
For more reviews visit my blog readingladies.com
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Reading Progress

September 23, 2018 – Shelved
September 23, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 26, 2018 – Started Reading
December 27, 2018 –
page 0
0.0% "Review coming soon....."
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
December 28, 2018 – Finished Reading
December 29, 2018 – Shelved as: netgalley-and-other-arcs

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Peggy (new)

Peggy Love all her books so am excited to read it. Thanks for posting a great review!


Carol (Reading Ladies) I hope you enjoy it Peggy!


message 3: by Terre (new)

Terre I love the quote. I’m looking forward to reading this book.


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