Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
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 War.
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.
From the same author of Seabiscut, Laura Hillenbrand, comes the true story of Olympic track runner Louie Zamperini turned American Airman during World War II. An Italian immigrant with the fastest mile in college track, Zamperini or Zamp, was involved in an airplane crash in the Pacific, spent more than 40 days in a 2-man raft, was captured by Japanese forces and tortured in POW camps and suffered PTSD symptoms after rescue.
Laura Hillenbrand does a wonderful job writing and presenting the story. Hillenbrand spent a great deal of time (7 years!) researching Zamp’s life, the lives of the people he fought with and against, and all that surrounded them. I don’t usually read non-fiction stories. I like to escape the brutalities of the world and human nature when I’m reading, not be submerged in them. However, this is a story that needs to be told and that needs to be heard. The happenings of WWII in Europe are well known, but what went on in Japan tends to be pushed to the backburner, sometimes altogether ignored and forgotten. Hillenbrand brings awareness to the conditions of POW camps in Japan during WWII with a compelling story that reads like anything but a textbook. It is a suspenseful tale not just because of what is being told, Zamp’s life and resilience, but also because of the way it is told. This is a great read for history buffs and nonfiction readers but Unbroken is so wonderfully written that even fiction loving readers, like myself, would enjoy it.
A movie based on the book and Louie’s life is currently in production with a release date set for this Christmas. The movie is directed by Angelina Jolie, which kind of scared me a little bit but Universal Studios released a promotional video (below) during the Olympic coverage and the scenes that they do show, look good! So, if you’re like me and like to read books because watching the movie, there’s another reason to read it!