Author: Laura Hillenbrand (Website, Facebook)
Publisher: Random House
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On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World Ward.
The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Summary from Dust Jacket
I decided to read Unbroken because it was our book for book club this month. I knew a little bit about it, but not much before I started reading it.
Louis Zamperini had an interesting life, that’s for sure. If I were his mother when he was a precocious two-year-old boy jumping from a train leaving Grand Central Station, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I think I would’ve developed an ulcer from worrying about all his shenanigans!
As we got into the war, I was dreading reading about all the horrific things he went through at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. And, as I read his story, I couldn’t believe what he and other Pacific POWs were subjected to. It’s amazing anyone survived! My least favorite part, however, was the part when Gaga, the duck who befriended the POWs in Omori, was tortured and beaten to death. It severely depressed me. And, then I was angry at the injustice that that particular soldier only got 4 years in prison for it and everything else he did. (I know there were worse things that happened in the book, but animals have a very special place in my heart and I had a hard time reading that part.)
I enjoyed reading about Louie’s resilience and his will to live. He was so strong! I know if I were in his situation, I would’ve been like Mac on the raft. (And, I would’ve hoped for a swift death just so I didn’t have to suffer any longer.) I enjoyed reading about his thieving acts in his younger years and how it actually helped him in the POW camps. I especially enjoyed reading about how he had stolen Hitler’s flag while he was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I also enjoyed reading about those Japanese soldiers and civilians that were kind to the POWs. It helped show that not all the Japanese during WWII were cruel and inhumane.
I’m so glad to hear that he was able to overcome his demons and find peace in Christ. Not many people can do that. Even with an extreme faith and belief in Christ myself, I find it hard to overcome my own personal demons. His life definitely shows that it’s possible to do, and I’m glad he was able to live a happy, fruitful life after the war once he found Christ.
Like my review of East of Eden and Precious Bane, if I were to give Unbroken a letter rating, I’d give it an A-. With the way I give star ratings, though, I’m only giving it three stars because I didn’t love the book; I only liked it. It was just too hard of a subject to be “enjoyable” and the way Laura Hillenbrand presented his life just wasn’t my cup of tea. I would’ve preferred to read it from Louie’s perspective rather than an overall view of everything. Also, I usually like experiencing these types of stories through movies instead of books. They seem more personal and emotional to me that way because it’s visual and the music adds so much to the story. I’m actually quite excited to see the movie in December.
I did think Unbroken was very well-written and it seemed very well researched. Louie definitely had an interesting life and it was worth reading about. I’m glad I decided to take the time to read it, even if it wasn’t my normal type of read.