By: Susan Meissner
Published Year: 2019
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion of this book.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): 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.
I have read (and reviewed) two of Meissner’s previous novels. I liked them well enough that when I saw she was coming out with another one I was intrigued. Between knowing I liked the author and an
What I thought
Elise and her family are sent to an internment camp for being German during World War II. There she meets her best friend Mariko. About a year after meeting at the internment camp, Elise’s family is repatriated, or traded for Americans to be sent back to Germany. Mariko’s family is eventually sent back to Japan and Elise and Mariko lose touch. In present day, Elise has decided that since she is getting older she wants to find Mariko.
This story is something else. It is a wonderfully written historical fiction. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and found myself unable to predict what was going to happen next. The story followed Elise’s story from before her father was taken to the internment camp, through her journey to Germany. The previous novels that I read by Meissner had a lot more frequent back and for the between the past and the present. This one mostly occurred in the past with a little bit at the beginning of each part.
Elise and Mariko’s friendship was so wonderful and so pure to read. There is nothing quite like a young friendship born from circumstance. I have experienced friendships that were some of the closest relationships I had when I was young because of being on vacation and being the only two girls of the same age. I related to their friendship in a way that I thought would be hard to do since it happened in such a rough situation a long time ago.
I was fascinated by the historical aspect of this story. I have read a lot of WWII fiction (it tends to be my favorite) and I had never heard about repatriation. The idea that innocent German and Japanese families were traded with American diplomats in the midst of such a hostile war is mind blowing. Reading about the Germany that Elise goes back to is heartbreaking. Adding the layer of her being American and not even knowing how to speak German it was hard to read.
The first third of the book was a pretty quick and enjoyable read. The second third was heavy and depressing. It didn’t take me a long time to get through, but I definitely took a break to watch some light and fluffy TV to recharge. The final third went back to being lighter, while still shocking. I even told my mom what I predicted would happen and I was so far off. I also love when a book takes me in a direction I didn’t expect without using any cheap tricks.