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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner | ARC Book Review

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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Published: March 19, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 400 

Genres: historical fiction

Rating: 5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: WWII, historical fiction, reading about history from an alternate person’s point of view 

Foodie Vibes: a meager meal of stale bread, soup and coffee as food is scarce during the war 

 

Synopsis: 

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.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Berkley, and Susan Meissner for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • Alternates between present day and WWII featuring the same characters helps to enhance the story
  • The shared friendship between Elise and Mariko – seamlessly ties the whole story together, even when they’re living on different continents
  • The parents caring for their children during very difficult times

Love:

  • The realism and beauty of the writing
  • We get a more personal complete perspective of the war from the view of a teenager
  • The main characters: Elise, her family, Mariko, and the Dove family
  • Even though it’s fiction I learned more about WWII, especially the experiences of average citizens in the U.S. and Germany 
  • Completely transports me to a different time and place

Dislike: 

  • The sadness, violence and mistreatment of people, even though its realistic to the events in history

Wish that:

  • The character of Max was mentioned more and also more likable 

 

Overall, a wonderful historical fiction novel that tells the tale of two American teenagers who met due to fear an assumptions from the government and changed each others’ lives forever. Definitely, definitely recommend!

 

Bookish Question:

What’s your favorite time period/country to read about in historical fiction novels?

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4.5 Star Books · biography · Book Reviews · True Crime

The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

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The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

Published: May 11, 2018

Publisher: WildBlue Press

Pages: 358

Genres: true crime, biography

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: true crime, books that honor and tell the stories of Holocaust survivors, justice being done, anyone with a conscience 

Read with food: a homemade Hungarian dish to appreciate the author’s roots . . . which I recently found out that the author has listed on her website! So cool! Hungarian Recipes

 

Synopsis:

After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust – in ghettos, on death marches, and in concentration camps – a young couple seeks refuge in Canada. They settle into a new life, certain that the terrors of their past are behind them. They build themselves a cozy little cottage on a lake in Muskoka, a cottage that becomes emblematic of their victory over the Nazis. The charming retreat is a safe haven, a refuge from haunted memories.

That is, until a single act of unspeakable violence defiles their sanctuary. Poking around the dark crawl space beneath their cottage, they discover a wooden crate, nailed tightly shut and almost hidden from view. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror of the crate’s contents – or how the peace and tranquility of their lives would be shattered.

Now, their daughter, Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning journalist, tells the extraordinary account of her parents’ ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives. Written in searing, lyrical prose, THE CRATE: A Story Of War, A Murder, And Justice examines man’s seemingly limitless capacity for evil… but also, his capacity for good.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a copy of the book. As always an honest review.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about the book. I’ve already recommended it to people, even before I had finished reading it. I will try my best to do the book and the people the justice it deserves in my review.

From the beginning I was blown away by the gorgeous poetic writing. I was captivated from beginning to end, as the author tells the story of her parents’ survival of the Holocaust, move to Canada, and eventual discovery of a woman murdered on their cottage property. The Crate is more than just the telling of crimes across history and their impact on people. It’s so impactful it’s almost intangible.

The author shares with us the stories of her childhood growing up in Canada with Jewish Hungarian parents who had survived the Holocaust. Through their stories we get a first hand look at the atrocities committed during the war, the strength of survivors, and effects these experiences had on their lives and their children’s lives. Her appreciation of her parents and their experiences is wonderful. She’s doing them a great justice by putting their stories down on paper. It is absolutely important that these stories, these individual human experiences are shared with the world before they are lost forever.

The book also tells the story of Samantha, the woman who was murdered and body was found hidden under the family’s cottage. The author related Samantha’s life experiences to some of the atrocities her parents experienced. After all, they’re all just human beings. The book honors Samantha’s memory. The chapters about Samantha didn’t pull me in as much as the rest. Possible because while they’re well researched, some aspects are not the author’s personal life experiences.

The book is incredibly insightful and does a great justice by telling the stories of her parents, the other Jewish people in the Holocaust, Samantha, and her family.
It shows humanity at its best and at its worst.
The Crate by Deborah Vadas Levison is on my unofficial must read book list of the year.

 

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