While I loved The Last Year of the War, I also hated that people don't seem to learn from the past. This book takes the reader back to WWII and the atrocities many U.S citizens faced simply because their ancestors were in Germany or Japan.
Elise Sontag only knows Iowa as her home. Her parents became U.S. citizens 20 years earlier, long before she was born. Her father's job as a chemistry teacher is part of what makes the U.S. government decide he's a threat. The family is whisked off to an internment camp in Texas.
Mariko Inoue is in a similar position. Her family lives in Los Angeles, but that doesn't stop the U.S. government from deciding their Japanese heritage makes them a threat. That family is also sent off to the Texas internment camp where Elise and Mariko become friends.
It isn't too long before Elise and Mariko are both sent back to their ancestral countries with their families. Elise, her parents, and her brother will be traded for U.S. soldiers. She and Mariko promise that when the war is over, they'll meet up again. In countries foreign to them, they'll have to first survive the atrocities of war and human nature.
The Last Year of the War broke my heart. I know it happened. I see similar behaviors happening today and it maddens and saddens me. As humans, we are supposed to learn from the past, yet we just don't.
The story moves between past and present. Much of it takes place in the 1940s, but you also see Elise today as she tries to find Mariko before it's too late. Elise has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so time is running out. She needs to find her friend before her memories of past and present disappear.
I loved this story, but it isn't an easy read. It's painful at times. It's also full of hope. If you enjoy historical women's fiction, this book needs to be on your must-read list.