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The last year of the war
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Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943 - aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity. The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences. But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the
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Booklist Review
Elise Sontag is American, but when WWII breaks out, the fact that her parents are German immigrants trumps that. Soon Elise and her family are sent to Crystal City, an internment camp in the Texas desert. Though there are unspoken divisions between prisoners of German and Japanese descent, Elise befriends Mariko, a fellow first-generation American with a vivid imagination. The two lose touch when their families are repatriated, and the focus shifts to Elise struggling to adjust to life in Germany, where she faces a language barrier and bombings in equal measures. The story is driven by present-day Elise, struggling to make a connection before she loses her memories to Alzheimer's. Meissner (As Bright as Heaven, 2018) gently explores a little-known aspect of American internment camps: things are hot and unpleasant, but there is plenty of food and friendship among the German and Japanese prisoners. Despite the hardships she endures, Elise remains optimistic and open to love, which comes from an unexpected place after the war. A heartbreaking, thought-provoking work of historical women's fiction.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2019 Booklist
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