The Last Year of the War
By Susan Meissner
The story begins in 2010 as Elise, a woman who is aware that Alzheimer’s is stealing her away, flies alone to find her childhood friend whom she just located thanks to a new iPad with internet. Elise and Mariko became friends during WWII at an internment camp, but this story is unlike any WWII novel I’ve read. As I was taken back to 1943, I learned a lot about these camps I never knew, including the fact that they housed German Americans along with Japanese (and even some Italians.) While the camps accommodated families and allowed the residents to continue observing their cultural heritage through foods, activities, and language classes, they were still terribly unfair, especially to the children like Elise and Mariko who were born Americans and knew very little about Japan and Germany.
The way Susan Meissner presented the older Elise and her determination despite the terrible disease she struggled with was expertly done. The mystery of why Mariko and Elise were separated and unable to connect before kept me turning pages. Elise is a character you root for as she had to endure so many relocations to unfamiliar places—and unsafe places her family returns to Germany in the last year of the war—and the questions she inevitably had about who she was and where she belonged. And you will still root for the older Elise as well who married in order to find that sense of belonging and ultimately discovered she had to establish it for herself.
I love historical novels that teach you history, and this one certainly does that. But in my opinion, this is one of the best Meissner novels yet. Highly recommended.
I received an advanced reader copy from the author and publisher for the purpose of review. I have given my honest opinions.
Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.
Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner
As Bright as Heaven
Berkley (February 6, 2018)
From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.
I am a fan of Susan Meissner’s books. This story did not disappoint. I found it totally engaging and enjoyed the different points of view. I thought Meissner did a wonderful job writing from the perspective of a child, while also telling the story in the words of the mother and the other daughters. It was heartbreaking to read about how people had to deal with the disease while still trying to carry on. The topic of death is difficult to ponder in any book, but especially difficult to deliver in a work of historical fiction (where we know what happens: there will be tragedies for the characters to deal with.) But with skill the author tells a tender story that ends with hope. I really enjoyed this book and thank the author and publisher for sending me an ARC to give my honest review. Highly recommended.
Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books. Pages of Ireland is the sequel to her popular novel Brigid of Ireland. She is also the author of the Ellis Series, and writes for genealogy magazines. The past is her passion as she writes from her home in Ohio. Visit her at www.cindyswriting.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyswriting and on Twitter: @cindyswriting.