My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Description: 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.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
My thoughts: The easiest way to summarize this book is simply state that I am disappointed in myself for not reading it earlier and this is a book I will purchase and keep forever. Much more than that detracts from this book.
Not only is it an incredible story of unbreakable spirit and survival in every aspect, the way the story is told is beautiful and timely. The lessons that could be learned, so powerful and personal are interspersed throughout the book. The description of the flashbacks, particularly the last one is incredibly poignant.
I am not quoting because I don't have the book right here with me, but Louie suffered a particularly cruel prisoner of war commandant who sought him out daily to beat him on his head and face. I had some psychological thoughts and epiphanies as I read these experiences having to do with how people in a position of power; at work, at war, or starting a war, are insecure adolescents who have had a few decades to stew over their feelings of powerlessness thus act out in an attempt to feel powerful, superior, and to compensate for that adolescence. That was my epiphany.
Louie's and/or Laura's epiphany was much more poignant. While this guard clung to Louie, sought him out, chased him and beat him down during his years in the prison camp, Louie's obsession with the guard/commandant and his hatred tied him to this monster, keeping him in a self-imposed prison. How often do we do that? Do we have the courage to unconditionally love and forgive? Could we pour the poison down the drain and never look back? Could we metaphorically embrace our enemies and pray for the best for them?
That is only one aspect of this non-fiction novel. This man survived some incredible experiences.
Well researched, written, paced, and I am completely enamored by Louie. Particularly after seeing the photos of him in his sixties plus. The book could just as easily be called "Indomitable." I will not lie. What mended Louie, the scene he described with his last flashback and what he did when he got home brought me to tears.