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Monday, March 25, 2019

World War II Internment Novel Tells Intriguing, Little-Known Story (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There is plenty about her confinement in the Crystal City internment camp during World War II that Elise Sontag Dove would gladly forget.  But as Alzheimer's slowly eats away her 81-year-old memory, there is one part of her internment experience she's desperate to remember—her best friend and fellow internee, Mariko Inoue Hiyashi.  After being repatriated to Japan, Mariko's parents forced her to remain in their homeland.  Elise hasn't heard from her in almost seven decades.  Now, with the help of Google, Elise must secretly engineer a reunion so she can—at last—thank Mariko for the girlhood friendship that changed Elise's life.

As Elise makes her clandestine plan, she reminisces about her unbelievable experience as the American-born daughter of unnaturalized German immigrants during the war.  From internment to expatriation to seeing firsthand the awful devastation of bombing in Germany, it's a harrowing story of sorrow, injustice, and, ultimately, hope.

I've read dozens of novels set during World War II, but I think this is the first time I've really encountered one about the plight of German-Americans during the war.  I knew about people of Japanese descent being interred, but not about those of German lineage suffering the same fate.  It's a fascinating piece of history about which I definitely wanted to know more.  The premise of The Last Year of the War, the newest dual-timeline historical novel by Susan Meissner, definitely interested me.  Unfortunately, the plot itself gets uneven and disjointed.  While the story centers on a friendship forged in the dusty Texan desert, only a tiny part of the tale actually takes place there, making the key theme of the novel feel less significant than it should have.  Other than that, The Last Year of the War is an enjoyable novel that stars sympathetic characters acting against a fascinating historical backdrop.  While I didn't end up loving this one, I did find it an intriguing and moving tale.  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild, non-graphic sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Last Year of the War from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


As part of the blog tour for The Last Year of the War, Penguin Random House has authorized me to give away a paperback copy of Susan Meissner's last book, As Bright As Heaven.  It's a heart-wrenching novel about a mother and daughter living in Philadelphia during the horrific outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918.  Good luck!

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