Review: The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It's exquisitely written, hauntingly poignant and emotionally draining. Have tissues ready when you're reading.

The story is told by Elise, who is now in her early 80s and in the early stages of Alzheimer's, as she sets out to meet her friend Mariko, who she has not seen since they were teenagers in the Crystal City, Texas, internment camp during World War II. Elise's parents were German immigrants; Mariko's were Japanese.

Despite the hardships the girls and their families suffered during their internment they managed to be teenage girls and do most of the things teenage girls do, including making a promise to each other that they would move to New York City together when they were 18. They lose touch -- except for a couple of letters -- when Elise's family is sent back to Germany and, later, Mariko's is sent back to Japan.

The atrocities described during Elise's time in Germany are heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, made even worse by knowing that it all really happened.

After the war, Elise meets an American soldier who says he'll marry her so she can get back to the US. She agrees and ends up living with his rich family. Some of that part of the book is funny and cute.

I won't tell you anything about what happens after Elise and Mariko see each other after all those years (That's really not a spoiler. We know very early on that they're going to meet.), except that they are some of the most powerful scenes I've ever read.

I can't say enough about this book. It's now in my "never give away" pile.

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