Reviews by Georgia

The Last Year of the War

By: Susan Meissner

Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler

During World War II, American residents viewed as potential security risks due to their ethnic background were placed in internment camps. Across the country, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, approximately 11,000 German-Americans, and 3,000 Italian Americans were interned. Many were later repatriated to Japan or Germany in exchange for American citizens stuck behind enemy lines. 

The Last Year of the War is a fictional story of fourteen-year-old Iowan Elise Sontag. Her parents had been in the United States legally for almost two decades, but her father was arrested because authorities thought he may be a Nazi sympathizer. The family spent 18 months in a camp in Central City, Texas. That is where Elise met Markio Inoue, a Japanese-American from Los Angeles. Despite the different backgrounds the girls became good friends. The friendship helped them deal with the barbed wire, armed guards, and the feeling of lost identities. It got them through the uncertainty of their lives, until the Sontags were sent to war-torn Germany. The girls promised to write and make contact when the war was over. But neither could imagine what the future would bring.

The story unfolds in flashbacks as Elise is now 81 and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Through the internet and with the help of her young caregiver, Elise discovers Mariko is living in San Francisco. Without telling her children who would object, Elise boards a flight from Los Angeles to visit the friend she has not seen in over sixty years. 

Author Susan Meissner wrote the novel to be as historically accurate as possible.  The characters are fictional, but the thoughts, emotions and feelings of young Elise, Mariko and their families are representative of those who were taken from their homes. 

In the beginning of the story, Elise recalls her father saying there were five things he wished he would not have done in the years before the war. At the time his actions and words did not seem like mistakes, but in hindsight those five things formed the accusations against him. Elise reflects on how those five things concerned the FBI, leading to the detention camps, and repatriation. 

The Last Year of the War is a riveting book on a topic that is largely unknown. I have read about the war and the atrocities committed overseas, but had no idea what was happening to American citizens on American soil. 

The Last Year of the War is available in regular and large print and can be found in the library; FIC MEI and LP MEI.   

 November 2019

Everyone Counts: Faith, Family & My Life in Baseball

By: Lou Brunswick and Don Hensley

Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler

Many know Lou Brunswick as an icon from Coldwater High School history class. Others remember him as one of the most successful baseball coaches in the history of Ohio high school athletics. But there is much more to the man than teacher and coach. 

Everyone Counts: Faith, Family & My Life in Baseball is the story of Lou Brunswick, the man. I have known the Brunswick family for most of my life, but did not truly know his story. As a teenage girl in the early 1970s, the Korean war and baseball meant little to me. Unfortunately, I did not understand the real lessons that were being taught in the classroom. It wasn’t until decades later that I realized what an impact this man had on the lives of so many.

Brunswick grew up on a farm in Wendelin, Ohio and graduated from St. Henry High School. Baseball played an important part in his life. Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Famer Wally Post lived next to the Brunswick family and the two boys spent a lot of time together. They remained good friends into adulthood. High school baseball took the freshman Brunswick to the 1945 state finals in Columbus. But equally as important is that high school is where he met his future wife, Ann. She became the rock of the family; raising their seven children, washing uniforms and keeping the schedules and studies of everyone in order.    

Lou was on the road to professional baseball when the business of war sidetracked him. He was drafted into the army to serve his country in Korea. The heartbreak of a baseball career being put on hold was pale in comparison to losing an older brother and closest confidante to that same war. After two years in the military, the window of opportunity to become a professional ball player had passed.  He needed to decide what to do with his life. Using the GI Bill, he graduated from the University of Dayton in 1957 and joined the staff of Coldwater High School in 1958. In 1959 he took over the reins of the baseball program. I could write that the rest is history, but the story does not end there. It is only the beginning. 

The book is divided into seven chapters to resemble the innings of a baseball game. There’s also a pregame, extra innings, and a postgame. Each represents a part of Brunswick’s life. I will admit that I skimmed some of the baseball stats and techniques, not fully understanding the mechanics and strategy of the game. But that did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.

One does not need to be a baseball fan or know Brunswick to appreciate the story. The life lessons he bestowed to his players can be appreciated by all whose lives he touched in one way or another. His character and actions had a ripple effect. 

Brunswick imparts that everyone counts, not only on the ball field but in all walks of life. The book can be found in the nonfiction section of the library; 920 BRU.

October 2019

 

The Other Wife    

By: Michael Robotham

Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler    

Life has thrown some nasty curves at Joseph O’Loughlin. Thirteen years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. When medicated properly, he appears to be almost symptom-free and lives in hope that science will come up with a cure. His wife Julianne died 16 months ago from surgical complications; a blood clot travelled to her heart and lodged in the left ventricle. She lived for a week on life support. A year ago he and his daughters moved back to London. Charlie is 20 and in her second year at Oxford studying behavioral psychology. At 12, Emma started attending a new private school with astronomical tuition fees. Joe is struggling to keep his family intact and finally was driven to seek help for his depression. 

This is where the story begins. Set in November, it follows the next 22 days. Each chapter signifies how much time has passed since the last interactions between characters. 

On day one, Joe receives an urgent call from hospital staff that his father is in intensive care after a brutal attack at his home. Joe rushes to be at his mother’s side but discovers the woman sitting at his father’s bedside is not Mary O’Loughlin. She says she is William O’Loughlin’s other wife. This is where the story suggests it is not just another crime novel.

The woman, this other wife, is covered in William’s blood. She told medics at the scene she found her husband at the bottom of the stairs and held him while waiting for help to arrive. But how much, if any, of her story is true? Joe and his sisters believed their parents had a typical marriage. William O’Loughlin is a celebrated surgeon. Is it possible that this upstanding citizen was leading a double life? 

The O’Loughlin sisters are quick to assume the worst of the stranger who knows so much about their family. Lucy, Patricia, and Rebecca refuse to believe their father was anything but exemplary in his professional and personal life. But as a clinical psychologist, Joe keeps an open mind and listens to what Olivia Blackmore has to say about her 20-year relationship with his father. Oddly, Joe’s mother is suspiciously silent when conversation turns to Olivia. Questions arise of Mary’s knowledge of the infidelity.  

Over the next three weeks, other characters play significant roles in the story. Detective Kate Hawthorn takes a fancy to Joe and offers information, to the detriment of her job. Friend and retired cop Vincent Ruiz contributes much needed help and muscle to Joe’s investigations. And David Passage, childhood family friend who took over his father’s law firm, seems to have abundant knowledge and conflicts of interest concerning William O’Loughlin’s affairs. 

The Other Wife is the most recent book in a series by Michael Robotham. I was unaware of this but it did not affect my understanding of the storyline or enjoyment of the characters. I would like to now go back and read the earlier stories of Joseph O’Loughlin as he is an interesting character.  

The Other Wife can be found in the library with the fiction books, FIC ROB.

September 2019