The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner’s newest book, The Last Year of the War, is the story of a German-American girl whose life forever changes when her family is sent to an internment camp in Texas during World War II. I urge you to give this book a try because Davenport, Iowa is the family’s hometown! Most reviews only mention that the family is from Iowa, so I was pleasantly surprised when Davenport and other Quad City landmarks were frequently discussed through character background and development.

The Last Year of the War flashes back and forth between past and present. Elise Sontag’s family has been in the United States for nearly two decades. This fact proves not to mean much when government forces show up at their front door. Elise’s father is arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. Elise’s mother struggles to provide for the family amidst government and local judgment and pressure. Her entire family is eventually sent to an internment camp in Texas where they are reunited with Elise’s father. In Texas, the family lives behind barbed wire and amidst armed guards and other fellow internees. Despite being with her family, Elise feels lost as almost every physical thing her family had loved and was familiar to them is gone. Elise struggles to find a sense of belonging and quickly feels herself becoming unmoored.

The one bright spot in Texas? Mariko Inoue. Mariko is a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles living with her parents and her two older siblings. Mariko and Elise become fast friends, much to the chagrin of other people given that Mariko is Japanese-American and Elise’s family is German. In order to survive the harshness of the camp, the two make plans for what they’ll do when they get out of the camp and turn 18.  Knowing, hoping, and praying that they will have a bright future outside of the camp, they work hard to stay together and build a positive future.

Flashing between past and present, readers see what happened to Elise and Mariko. Were they able to keep their big plans? What happened to both of their families? How did the war and its far-reaching aftershocks affect the different people that they came in contact with? The character development throughout this book really drew me in, as well as the references to places that I was familiar with throughout Davenport. Give this book a read and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Adam Newman’s destiny has been predetermined as far back as he can remember in Francesca Segal’s debut novel, The Innocents.

In his close knit Jewish community of North London, Adam has known everyone since birth, including Rachel Gilbert, to whom he is now engaged.  Adam and Rachel have been a couple since their were 16 years old and their wedding is fast approaching.  The couple has a seemingly perfect life – Adam has been embraced by Rachel’s family, especially her father, who has become a father figure to Adam after he lost his own father at a young age.

Their life is moving ahead rapidly when Rachel’s cousin, Ellie, surprisingly appears in town and everything Adam has every known is thrown into upheveval.  As his attraction to Ellie is growing, he is torn between the life that has been scripted for him and a life that he never could have imagined with a person he has not seen for years. This love triangle is coupled with another scandal that could tear his new family apart.

Segal takes her inspiration from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, but spins a story that is fresh and modern.  I am eagerly waiting for Segal’s next novel.