The Last Year of the War – Book Review

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Internment camp WWIIDuring World War II, after the invasion of Pearl Harbor, they rounded up people of Japanese, Mexican and German descent and sent them to internment camps throughout America. These camps were prisons, surrounded by walls and barbed wire, patrolled day and night by armed guards. Inside, however, the captives had most of the luxuries of home life. There was plenty to eat, housing and even schools. They employed the adults in jobs where their talents lay and received money to spend at the camp stores. It was a conventional life, but one that isolated family and friends. And the ostracization was humiliating.

Last years of the war - book coverAt one such camp in a small Texas town of Crystal City, two American-born teens Mariko (Japanese parents) and Elise (German parents) founded their great friendship. They attended school together, played and swam in the local pool together, and learned from each other. They dreamed of a day when they would leave the camp to meet in New York and begin their lives anew in all the glory of America. Within the confines of the camp, they spent their days oblivious to the effects of the war on the world.

But their dreams would be thwarted. Elise and her family would be repatriated to Germany where Elise would experience the closing years of the war firsthand. At only sixteen, she would live the last of her teen years watching her life unravel as her grandmother’s house (their place of residence) is destroyed in an air raid. She would endure days of hunger as food shortages plague Germany in the closing months of the war. Unable to speak German she would also struggle to understand the events that were ravaging the countryside.

Mariko would also experience changes, as her father, never happy in America, would request repatriation to the homeland. There under his strict rule, she would be promised in marriage to a man she did not know.

Decades will pass before these women will reconnect. And when they do, there is so much to share. This is a powerful story. Enjoy.

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