Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, and As Bright as Heaven, among other novels.
There are mirrors of two kinds; the kind you look into to see what you look like, and the kind you look into to see what other people think you look like. This is how the teenage girls, Elise and Mariko, felt in The Last Year of the War. The two became friends at an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, of all the unlikely places. Elise, the daughter of German immigrants who came to America in 1925, had grown up in Davenport, Iowa. Mariko, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, who found their way to Los Angeles and then to Little Tokyo, lived above the family’s vegetable and herb shop, went to school, spoke Japanese and English and dreamed of going to a university and becoming successful. This American dream changed drastically for both girls on the morning of December 7, 1941, with the surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Last Year of the War is a deeply emotional and mindful accounting of the fear and heartbreak that the families of German and Japanese heritage endured during World War ll, here in the U. S. and abroad. The vivid description of the repatriation of the families of Elise and Mariko and so many others, aids the understanding of what was happening to our friends and neighbors, as they simply disappeared from schools and communities. The girls and their families were given very little information regarding the war while in Crystal City. Later, after crossing the ocean and learning of what had happened in Europe, Elise is still writing to Mariko and hoping to one day be united in New York City, as they had planned. What a journey these girls and their families survive; the deprivations of war, and the realization that love “bears all things.” This Grateful Reader gained so much insight from this novel; I highly recommend it!